A Revelation in Fall Spirit Sipping: Cardamaro, a Wine-Based Amaro

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

My partner Sam and I recently discovered there’s a free Wednesday wine tasting at our local wine shop. I’m not sure how we missed this for the past year and a half that we’ve lived here, but we’re new converts. While I’m used to tasting everything from Syrah to San Giovese, when an Italian amaro called Cardamaro came up the other day I was confused: amaro doesn’t belong in a wine tasting, does it?

The deal with Cardamaro, I learned, is that it’s a wine-based amaro and one of the few available domestically. The recipe originated with Piedmont vintner Giovanni Bosca, and it’s essentially a Moscato wine that’s been infused with cardoon and “blessed” with thistle and is then aged for six months in oak barrels. We were pleasantly surprised with the price point: a 750 ml bottle was $20 at our local wine shop. We began by just sipping it after dinner, but we’ve started to brainstorm cocktails it would work with.

But first: what does it taste like? Because it is wine based, it reminds me a lot of a sweet vermouth. If you’re an amaro fan as I am, I think you’ll like it. It has a slightly bitter taste but it’s much softer and almost nutty and lightly spiced in flavor. So even if you’re not a Campari or Cynar drinker, I think you may still fall for it thanks to its more mellow, warm flavors. Apparently people drink it as both an apéritif or digestif; I think it’d be great paired with brown liquors like bourbon, whiskey, brandy, or Calvados.

Have you tried Cardamaro? If so, what are your favorite ways to enjoy it?