At Manhattan cocktail venue Amor y Amargo drinks are constructed in reverse. Rather than start with a base spirit such as whiskey or gin, the team behind every sip starts with bitters—be that the obscure Cocktail Punk Alpino Bitters or the common yet unexpected Jägermeister. The much-talked-about, incredibly nuanced alcohols used to punch up a mixed drink or served neat as aperitifs or digestifs form the building blocks for Amor y Amargo's offerings—and with a new range of iced coffee cocktails served through a weekend program with coffee expert Amanda Whitt, they're really flexing.
"Coffee isn't just one flavor," explains Sother Teague, the bar's renowned beverage director. "There's a lot going on. We hand-brew here with an ice pour-over. It traps in all the delicate flavors and aromatics. Then it comes down to analyzing what's inside flavor-wise." Teague and Whitt then partner potable bitters (the type you can drink alone) and super-concentrated tinctures (in which only a dash or two are needed). "These are mini cocktails, meaning they're low in alcohol, with one and half to two ounces of booze per the three to four ounces of coffee. The focus is on the coffee. It's refreshing that way." And yet, Teague's mastery shines through when the tertiary ingredients take play. "I want those flavors to be assertive and aggressive and noticed," he shares, but always in service to the coffee it supports. Bitter compliments bitter and the sweetness of the base spirit lend a delightful sugary edge.
The following four cocktails demonstrate the depths of the program but can be constructed at home for those with a substantial bitters collection—or the curiosity enough to start constructing one. Teague prefers not to specify base spirits as the amaros are the ones doing the work. All the mixers are stirred together, no need to shake as there is no juice or sugars, and poured over ice.
.50 oz Rye
.50 oz Gin
.50 Meletti Amaro
.50 oz Bonal Gentiane Quina
Dash of Angostura Bitters
4 oz iced Central American coffee brewed in the Japanese method on a Kalita Wave or Bonmac (Amor y Amargo is currently using a washed El Salvador from Irving Farm Coffee, their guest roaster for the month of June 2014)
Serve in a chilled glass with a large twist of orange.
The German Campsite
1 oz Jägermeister
.5 oz Bonal Gentiane Quina
.25 heavily peated Scotch
3 oz of Finca Pashapa Coffee
2 dashes of Cocktail Punk Alpino Bitters
St. Hubertus Fix
.75 oz aged rum
.75 oz Jägermeister
3 oz of Finca Pashapa Coffee
2 dashes of Dale Degroff Pimento Bitters
.50 oz Byrrh
.50 oz Mezcal
.50 oz Dark rum
.25 oz Aveze
Two dashes of Bittermens Burlesque bitters
4 oz washed Central American coffee
Serve in a chilled glass with a large twist of lemon
Double Buzz, the iced coffee and amaro program, runs every Saturday and Sunday from noon-4:30PM at Amor y Amargo, located at 443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009.
Photos by David Graver