Cardamaro is a unique amaro that is made not from grain neutral spirits or grappa but rather from wine. The Milan-based producer, Giovanni Bosca, calls this “a predecessor to the now common styles of amari.” While the name may have you presuming it is flavored with cardamom, that’s not the case. Cardamaro starts with Bosca’s estate wine, then primarily flavors it with cardoon and blessed thistle (both related to the artichoke) — plus other botanicals — which puts its flavor profile more in line with Cynar rather than a sweeter amaro. It is rested in oak for six months before it’s ready to bottle. At just 17% abv, it’s much lower in alcohol than most other distilled amari.
As a wine-based product, Cardamaro doesn’t keep forever. Store it refrigerated after opening, as you would a vermouth. Serve as you would any amaro or sub for whiskey to give a cocktail a lower-abv spin — or use in place of sweet vermouth to bitter-up a Manhattan, etc.
Cardamaro has a distinct vegetal note on both nose and palate, but there’s an underlying, winey sweetness — not dissimilar from sweet vermouth — that quickly lifts it up. There’s definitely a familiar hint of baking spice (heavy on the clove and allspice) and a bit of mint here, but it’s kept in check by a healthy root-driven bitterness that does resemble Cynar-light. Notes of semi-sweet chocolate on the finish add just a bit more sweetness than the attack would suggest. All told, it’s not the most balanced or complex amaro — you can thank the wine base for that — but it does makes up for it in versatility.