Bitter liqueurs known as amari are crossing the Italian border.
They are enjoyed in Europe and the U.S., and Amaro Nonino is one of our favorites.
So, what is Amaro Nonino, and what are some substitutes we could potentially use?
Let’s dive deeper into our favorite bottle on the bar cart and find out what makes these bitter liqueurs unique and what substitutes can be used in their place.
What is Amaro Nonino?
Amaro Nonino is an Italian bitter liqueur invented in 1992 in Northern Italy by a distiller named Benito Nonino.
What sets this amaro apart from others is that it’s made with a grappa base, a grape brandy, that lend to the fruity liqueur notes.
Then, the liqueur is mixed with the Nonino family botanicals, which have been used in their family recipes since 1933.
This unique mix of botanicals includes rhubarb, thyme, sweet and bitter orange, tamarind, and many others.
The botanicals produce a semisweet drink that can be enjoyed on the rocks, neat, or in cocktails.
What Does Amaro Nonino Taste Like?
The unique flavor is a subtle blend of vanilla, spices, honey, and orange.
Gentle fruity and floral notes are balanced out by a caramel and wormwood aftertaste.
Amaro Nonino is generally served on the rocks as an aperitif, a drink served before or after a meal that aids in digestion.
But there are some cocktails served with Amaro Nonino, the two most famous being the Paper Plane and the Spritzer.
The Number One Substitute for Amaro Nonino
Amaro Averna is the best substitute for Amaro Nonino because it's the closest in flavor and other characteristics.
There are subtle notes of caramel, orange, and similar spices that lie in the middle between bitter and sweet and it's also usually enjoyed on the rocks.
Amaro Averna is sweeter and has a thicker consistency than Amaro Nonino with a lower alcohol percentage of 29% but is still used in a 1:1 ratio.
Though the texture is slightly thicker than Nonino, the character differences are subtle, ranking this as the best substitute.
How to Make Your Own Amaro Nonino Substitute
Depending on flavor preference, you can use another amaro liqueur with similar notes as a substitute, but you can also make your own.
It's a time consuming process and requires many herbs and botanicals, but it's also a very satisfying process with good end results.
So, what do you need for substitute amaro?
Neutral grain spirits, water, honey, and herbs like mint, rosemary, cloves, allspice, and gentian root.
It’s quite a list, but this is quite a bitter and unique liqueur.
First, grind the herbs and root with a mortar and pestle or rough chop in a food processor.
Steep it in a glass jar with the alcohol for three weeks. Yes, three weeks.
After the initial steeping, make a simple sugar and pour it into the jar and steep for another two weeks.
Finally, strain the amaro through a cheesecloth to remove the solids.
It can be stored for up to six months in a refrigerator; if the amaro is not refrigerated, it will slowly oxidize.
A wide variety of herbs can be used, depending on taste preference and how bitter or sweet you like it.
Whichever herbs you choose to use, the blending and steeping process is the same.
Other Great Substitutes for Amaro Nonino
Amaro Tosolini Liquore d'Erbe
Where to Find These Substitutes
Amaro substitutes are readily found at most liquor stores and online.
To help you see the variety of substitute amari and to get a general guideline for the prices, here is a link to Re-Up Liquors Amaro Collections.
What is Amaro Nonino Commonly Used For?
One of the best-loved things about Amaro Nonino is the complexity of each pour.
The grape notes of the grappa jump out at first, balanced by the bitterness of the quinine and the wormwood, followed by a zesty citrus with an aftertaste of caramel.
With all these complex flavors, Amaro Nonino is typically drunk on the rocks or straight up.
However, the traditional Italian way to enjoy amari is as an aperitif, a cocktail before or after a meal.
Amari is good for digestion and makes an excellent nightcap when served neat.
The most common cocktail for Amaro Nonino is the Paper Plane, named after the popular M.I.A. song the year the drink was created.
It's based on a classic, pre-prohibition era cocktail, The Last Word, with both cocktails being an equal-parts drinks.
Another classic amaro cocktail is the Spritzer.
The Spritz is a light and refreshing drink that adds prosecco and sparkling water that blends superbly with the bittersweetness of the amaro.
For other fun-filled cocktail ideas, check out our guide to the best margarita machines on the market.
How is Amaro Nonino Made?
Amaro Nonino is made from grappa infused with herbs and grain alcohol with various ingredients added.
The components are bitter orange, caramelized sugar, cinchona, galanga, gentian, quassia wood, and rhubarb.
It’s the infusion of herbs and botanicals that make amaris unique.
Amaro Nonino adds grappa, which is why it stands alone in flavor and complex tasting notes.
Where Can I Find Amaro Nonino?
Amaro Nonino is available at a wide range of liquor stores and online, and the average price for a 750 ml bottle is $45.00.
Here is an online buyer's guide to help you out with the different varieties and prices.
Does Amaro Nonino Contain Alcohol?
Yes, and a larger quantity than other amari. Most amari contain around 15% ABV (alcohol by volume), while Amaro Nonino has a 35% ABV.
Amaro Nonino is a wonderfully complex Italian bitter liqueur that should definitely be stocked on your wet bar.
This amaro stands out from the crowd because of the grappa and the wide variety of botanicals.
Enjoy this storied amaro on the rocks, neat, or blend it in a refreshing cocktail.
The nuances of flavor notes are the stand-out feature of amaro, and this one goes above and beyond.