Liqueurs made for specific cocktails are nothing new. But what about a liqueur distilled to match a particular rye whiskey? Sagamore Spirit recently released their own amaro, and it’s designed to be used in a Black Manhattan alongside their Maryland-style rye. That’s about as specific as they come!
In the brand’s own words:
Sagamore Spirit Amaro was designed from the ground up to perfectly complement our rye whiskey by using premium botanical ingredients and the same 95% rye distillate used to make Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey.
According to Sagamore, it’s the “first rye-distillate-based Amaro product to enter the market.” The in-house amaro is now available to the public and bottled at 30% abv. Let’s see how it tastes both neat and in the house-style Black Manhattan.
Nosed neat, the amaro starts off with heavy notes of coriander, cardamom, and gentian root; this is much heavier on spice than floral notes. Some more bitter botanical notes lie just beneath after significantly more time in the glass. Cooling, nostril-clearing menthol follows.
In the mouth, early notes include cardamom (once again, quite pronounced), cinnamon bark, bitter orange, and coriander. There’s also a gentian-like bitterness throughout that’s appropriately refreshing and mouthwatering. The brand lists sarsaparilla on their tasting notes, implying potential inclusion of that ingredient among the botanicals as well; I found that noticeable on the palate as well.
The finish is syrupy and sweet — perhaps a touch too sweet to sip neat and truly situated for a cocktail setting, but a lingering bitterness helps keep things from falling into a sticky deep end. Sampled on a large rock and with some gradual dilution, the sweetness faded just enough to keep me going back for another sip.
Now for that Black Manhattan! As their recipe suggests, we used two parts Sagamore Rye (in this case, two ounces of their Creators Cask release) and one part Sagamore Amaro. Two dashes of bitters followed. The cherry was from Luxardo, a slight departure from their suggestion to use Sagamore’s own Whiskey Cherries.
In the cocktail, bitterness from the amaro slightly overpowers the rye; I’d recommend modifying their recipe to ¾ ounce amaro instead of the prescribed 1 ounce, which could temper that aspect and allow the rye to shine a bit more. It did have just about the right level of sweetness.
Sagamore Amaro is an interesting exercise in botanicals, though perhaps their Black Manhattan recipe could use a small tweak in proportion. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for other recipes to slot in this uniquely Marylandan take on amaro.
B+ / $30 / sagamorespirit.com