Amaro has been around for centuries, but not in the way you’d know it. As with most herbal macerations, Amari (the plural of Amaro) began in the middle ages as a liquor to lift your spirits (pun intended) if you were feeling a little under the weather. Now of course, if you give grandma alcohol she’s going to forget about her migraine, but modern medicine has advanced a little bit since then.
Our modern understanding of Amaro really begins with recognising the complete lack of uniformity across the entire family of drinks. Amaro is less about conforming to one single idea and far more about tradition and ingredient availability. At its core, the category all share three things in common in terms of production: a base distillate, a bittering agent, and flavouring.
The most famous Amari are clearly the lightest and most fruit driven: Aperol and Campari. Their flexibility in terms of mixing and their appearance in some of the world’s most famous drinks has made their reign as the kings of the Amari category virtually unopposed… until now.
Growing interest in the variability of Amari from across Europe has meant that some of the lesser known Amaro have been getting a lot of love and attention from bartenders and drinkers alike for their unique flavours and incredible versatility. Products like Ramazotti, Cynar, Meletti, Amaro Caffo and Rabarbaro Zucca have burst through their relative anonymity to become extremely popular across various cultures.
Although the term ‘Amaro’ translates from the Italian to ‘bitter’, Amari are far from an exclusively Italian product. Bitter liqueurs have actually populated a large amount of drinking culture without their high brow and somewhat pretentious cousins ruining all the drinking fun. Take Jagermeister, yeah we said it: Jagermeister. It's technically an amaro. That’s right, every time you popped a Jager-bomb, you were drinking Amaro - neat huh?
But more than just something to smash at a party, Amari are really a reflection of the botanicals of a certain area. That's why Amaro Montenegro and Fernet Branca have such a cult following. They’re entirely reflective of the land that surrounds them.
This is where Okar steps in. To make a truly Australian Amaro, without making Campari dressed in a kangaroo suit, we had to turn to the plant material that was around us, and with the unique and richly flavoured plants that are endemic to all parts of this glorious country, it's all too easy and fascinating.
With Riberries (the berry of the Lilly Pilly) at the core, surrounded by tart Davidson Plums, succulent Native Currants and fragrant Wild Thyme, Okar is bold and dominating, just like the Australian Outback.