Don Ciccio & Figli founder Francesco Amodeo is betting that American palates are opening up to bitterness. This week, he added two new bottles to his line-up of D.C.-made, Italian-inspired amaros: one for beginners and another for fernet fans.
Amaro Donna Rosa is the most mellow of Don Ciccio & Figli's amaros. It's the least bitter and least alcoholic (20 percent ABV) in his collection with strong rose petal and rhubarb flavors among its 22 botanicals.
Amodeo explains his first and flagship amaro, Amaro delle Sirene, was made mostly for people in the bar industry and other fans of bitter liqueurs. But some people who tried it for the first time at his distillery thought it was too bitter and savory. Donna Rosa is meant to be more introductory.
Meanwhile, Amaro Don Ferné is Amodeo's version of fernet, a favorite after-hours drink among many bar and restaurant folks. "I've been in the industry for many years and I still can't really sip fernet even though my palate appreciates bitterness probably more than the regular customer," Amodeo says. "Why do I want to take a shot of something and not enjoy what I'm drinking?"
The idea behind Amaro Don Ferné was to take all the flavors of fernet but avoid any sign of menthol or glycerin that makes it taste like mouthwash. Instead, Amodeo's fernet-style amaro combines two types of cacao, coriander, and 16 other botanicals. After barrel-aging, it's finished with a 12-hour infusion of fresh mint and ginger.
"You can drink it by itself," Amodeo says. "And you can shoot if you want."
Both amaros are aged for varying amounts of time in French oak barrels from Marisa Cuomo Winer on the Amalfi Coast (where Amodeo's family comes from). The barrel-aging process helps sweeten the spirits without the addition of much sugar.
Both bottles retail for around $38. You can find all of Don Ciccio & Figli's amaros and liqueurs at its distillery at 6031 Kansas Ave. NW or at liquor stores throughout the city.
Photo courtesy Don Ciccio & Figli