This past weekend, I knew I needed to get out of town. My dog, Charlie, was acting like a Hoover, eating every piece of trash in his path; my apartment was basically sweating due to the 95-and-humid-as-a-Russian-bath-house temperatures; and the combination was putting me in the foulest of moods.
This mindset was not improved during my drive to Livingston Manor, a charming little town in Sullivan County, New York. Under normal circumstances, it takes somewhere between two and three hours to reach this part of the Catskills; that day, it took me as long to get out of the city and again as long to navigate my way to my destination. Many expletives were uttered en route.
When I arrived at The DeBruce, I was hungry, tired, and desperately in need of a drink.
I should mention that the 14-room inn, the fourth property from Foster Supply (one of my favorite independent hotel groups), is the very definition of idyllic mountain retreat. It is the kind of place that makes you want to leave your city life and become an innkeeper in the mountains somewhere so that you and your dog can go frolic with the deer and marmots and toads in the acres and acres of lush landscape right out your doorstep. And not only is the setting picture perfect, but the renovation is also the kind that pays homage to the history of the place, while still managing to have all the things you really want: thoughtfully placed hooks and outlets, buttery-soft throws from Denmark, and full-size Malin & Goetz toiletries.
Planning a trip upstate? Read our Bite-Sized Guide to the Catskills.
At the moment of my arrival, however, I was not fully primed to take in either the beauty of the setting or the thoughtfulness of the design. What I really wanted was a drink.
The Best Thing I Drank This Weekend
I had a few that night. There was a lovely rosé to start, followed by a Côtes du Rhône to go with my perfectly cooked steak and early season corn with cream and fresh herbs. In significantly better spirits (get it?), I decided I needed a nightcap (and a game of shuffleboard) to fully put the day (and the week) behind me.
I was craving amaro, which means "bitter" in Italian and is the type of after-dinner drink your grandpa might drink (if he were Italian). It's made by infusing brandy with all sorts of herbs and spices and barks and whatnot. You've heard of Fernet Branca, perhaps, or maybe Montenegro? But there are thousands, and every one is different.
Anyway, I really like amaro (grandpa drink although it may be) and try to taste as many as I can. And, as luck would have it, the bar carried an amaro and it was one that I had never tried before. It's called Cardamaro and it was the best thing I drank this weekend.
What Is Cardamaro?
So what is Cardamaro, and what makes it so delicious? Well, unlike most amari, which you'll remember are made from brandy, it has a wine base. The recipe dates back to the seventh century, when someone decided that Moscato wine infused with cardoon and blessed thistle and then aged in oak would be delicious. It is! It's a little nutty, mildly bitter — maybe more like sherry or mulled wine — and, at 17% ABV, it's ideal for sipping while playing shuffleboard. It's also great for cocktails — sub it in for anything that calls for Cynar, Campari, or even vermouth!
A little internet research revealed that it's also very affordable: You can find it online for about $20 a bottle, which means it's likely Cardamaro will be my new go-to housewarming/dinner party/just-because bottle for the foreseeable future. For special occasions, I might pair a bottle with this set of gold-rimmed cordial glasses.
Buy It: Cardamaro, $19 at Astor Wines
Have you tried Cardamaro? Do you love it, too?