Ingredient Tasting Notes: Heirloom Alchermes and Amaro Abano
Two new ingredients for my collection profiled.
Hey Readers and Imbibers!
I’ve got new cocktail recipes in the works, and new fiction and non-fiction pieces in various draft stages, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share some tasting notes on a couple of new ingredients to my collection.
Given the topic of this blog, it’s probably not a surprise if I tell you my holiday gifts included a bit of booze. I specifically requested new aperitifs and liqueurs to add dimension and flavors to spirit forward drinks, as well as act as main ingredients for lower proof concoctions.
Here are two I’ve been sampling.
If “Alchermes” sounds like “alchemy” to you, your instincts are correct. Per Wikipedia, the original concoction today’s Alchermes is based on was, in times of pre-modern medicine, “ranked among the best tonics for the heart, and was frequently used for the palpitation of the heart, or syncope, sometimes for smallpox or measles and a general restorative.”
Per the modern blend, Heirloom’s website has the following description:
“Heirloom Alchermes uses warm botanicals like Cinnamon and Clove that are softened with Rose Water and Vanilla Bean. This ancient, warm, dusty liqueur is truly mysterious and to our knowledge, Heirloom Alchermes Liqueur is the only alchermes produced in America. Delicious in a Negroni, an Alkermes Spritz or as a modifier in a sour or fizz.”
Gorgeous graphic design. I can see why this caught my husband’s eye. Crisp and retro, nice font choices.
What jumped out at me immediately was that they specifically lean into the ‘antique maker’ aspect of the brand by boasting that they use cochineal (e.g. natural red coloring derived from tiny red bugs called cochineal scales), at a time when other manufacturers are moving away from it in interest of creating more vegan friendly products.
(Confession: I have taken to calling this ‘bug juice’ at times.)
On to the notes, my little beetles!
As expected, cinnamon and clove immediately; clove is the slightly stronger of the two.
A little sweet, in the way that an Atomic Fireball is sweet.
A little ethanol scent, but not much—about the amount you could pick up from smelling cough syrup.
A brief burst of sweetness right away.
It’s immediately replaced by spicy, hot sensations—much spicier on the lips and tongue than I would have anticipated based on the smell.
The actual flavors of the spices follow—specifically, cinnamon and clove.
Some warmer flavors layered in the middle—maybe a little of that vanilla mentioned in the ingredients list.
Maybe a teeny bit of citrus? Orange peel, perhaps? Not as citrusy as a Campari.
The last notes are a bit cooler, like the alcohol has settled—again, there's a very mild medicinal aspect to it, but in a pleasant way.
My husband noted that it tastes more like a cinnamon Jolly Rancher than actual Red Hots.
Of note: I did not get that rose water flavor at all, wouldn’t describe it as floral. It must be layered in pretty deep.
In terms of viscosity, it’s about the same as Aperol. There’s definitely sugar in it, but it’s not heavy or thick like a cough syrup.
Overall, if you’re looking for warmth and spice without too much sweetness, this is going to be a good choice. It has almost no bitter notes, though, so if you are subbing it in for a Campari in, say, a Negroni, you’re going to get a slightly different flavor profile.
I first became aware of Amaro Abano as an ingredient in a cocktail at a local drinking establishment (hey, remember those?)
Time Out Market Chicago served a slightly sweet spirit-forward charmer called “The Millenial” that I ordered a few times, and liked enough to snap a photo of its description.
I’ve never had Amaro Abano as a part of my collection, and was curious to see how it tasted on its own.
Per the website:
“The herbs in this amaro grow wild and are infused along with cardamom, cinnamon and bitter orange peel. Luxardo Amaro Abano is a medium bitter, extremely popular in Italy, and especially in the Veneto region, drunk straight after a meal with or without ice to help digestion.”
It’s a Luxardo Bottle. It definitely prefers brand consistency and legacy over any sort of fancy graphic design. Again, per the site,
“Abano is an old Roman spa in the Veneto region that has been active for the last 500 years. The label depicts the spa around the year 1600.”
Strong cola smell. Specifically, somewhere between RC Cola and a Dr. Pepper. More cola than I would have thought for some reason. Per my reading, Ramazotti is the liqueur described most frequently as cola-like. I was, based on the notes on the bottle, expecting sweet, bitter, and lightly floral.
There’s a something buried way in the back I couldn’t place. I suggested a very of some sort—strawberry maybe? My husband said blackberry. Whatever it is, it’s very very far back.
There’s also an overall mild sweetness.
You get hit with sweet sweet sweet immediately.
That cola taste is up front, but it’s not as powerful you would imagine based on the nose; it smells more cola than it tastes.
Spices come in next, specifically that cardamom called out in the brand notes.
Spice evolves into a true bitterness.
It's a cool bitterness, though, not at all earthy and dark like gentian. I am not versed enough in individual bettering agents to make a guess, but perhaps that bitter orange peel mentioned?
Again, really enjoyed this sort of cool finish; spiced liqueurs tend to run “hot” if you follow me—see above with the Heirloom. This is a pleasant opposite.
I would say it’s not far off from the Heirloom in terms of viscosity; both of these liquids are only lightly syrupy—it’s not going to thicken your drink substantially without the addition of another heavier syrup along with it.
This one is a bit of an odd duck! I do like it, though, and have been having some success dropping small amounts of it into Manhattans and Boulevardiers to see how it blends in standard recipes (this is definitely part of my “get to know you” process for new ingredients before trying them in original recipes.) I’m curious to see how I can really make this sing, and what parts of its unusual evolution I’ll want to highlight from most.
All right, that’s it for today. I’ll be shooting more this weekend and will have full recipes for you soon.