Earlier this week I continued my bad habit of going to a cocktail bar that I’ve never been to and not taking any notes on the experience. As a result, I’m sad to say that Amor y Amargo won’t get the detailed review that it deserves.
Amor y Amargo is a bar by Avery and Janet Glasser, the founders of Bittermens Bitters. It’s located on in New York’s East Village, just a few doors down from Death & Company on 6th Street. It consists of a General Store, with the full line of Bittermens Bitters, as well as other bitters, cocktail tools, and books. It’s a nice selection, especially since finding good bitters can be hard. But things get really impressive when you turn towards the bar.
Amor y Amargo is a cocktail bar focused on vermouth, aperitifs, potable bitters, and, given who runs the place, non-potable bitters. While there are scores of these various spirits, the bar keeps a small stock in other base spirits. The focus is on the bitters.
One of the coolest things about Amor y Amargo is that they have their homemade sweet vermouth and an Americano cocktail available on draft at the bar. The Americano is one of my favorites and as a matter of principle I had to have it first. It comes out deep red, with less carbonated water in it than I usually drink. The emphasis is really on the vermouth and the Campari and it’s frankly fantastic.
From there, Avery made me a Gin Rickey variation using a lime citrate. Amor y Amargo doesn’t have fresh fruit juices, so this was an interesting substitute and a pretty tasty cocktail as well. I got to try a number of Avery’s original creations made special for the friends I was there with (who, wisely, have become regulars). The range and depth of the selection of amari and other potable bitters and aperitifs from France, Italy, Germany and other parts of the world was staggering. I’m at a point now where I’d say that the only two categories of spirits I’m really continuing to collect broadly is rum and amari; the differences of styles, brands, regions, and flavor profiles is incredibly interesting to me and every bottling seems to offer something fairly different.
I was at Amor y Amargo on a Monday night, which is when owner Avery Glasser works behind the stick, with his wife and partner Janet helping keep the house in order while he works. It was great to finally meet him and Janet in person. It’s hard to fully capture the importance of Bittermens Bitters in both my becoming interested in craft cocktails and the growth of craft bartending more broadly. From my perspective, some of the first cocktails I fell in love with were drinks with Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters made by bartenders at Death & Company. The Conference by Brian Miller was the drink that got me hooked, but St. Columb’s Rill and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned by Philip Ward are also outstanding drinks that feature the Xocolatl Mole Bitters by Bittermens. The problem was that in early 2008 when I got to know these drinks, Bittermens was not commercially available for sale. It wasn’t until they took a circuitous path through Germany and a partnership with The Bitter Truth that American consumers could find these special bitters available for home use.
Bittermens is now producing their bitters entirely on their own in Brooklyn, NY. The line includes some really interesting bitters, though the Burlesque Bitters are my favorite, as they’re a great addition in summery gin and rum drinks. In the near future, they’ll be doing some other cool stuff that geeks like me will be very excited about, but I won’t discuss now. Just stay tuned…in the mean time, if you’re in NYC, check out Amor y Amargo. You won’t be disappointed.