I somehow managed to delete this post! I'll reconstruct it as best I can...
I recently re-read Jason Wilson's Boozehound - a very entertaining exploration of unusual booze categories. One of my favorite chapters goes into detail about amaros, the Italian bitter liqueurs best exemplified in this country by Campari. I've included Cynar (wonderful, bizarre, artichoke-y goodness) in a few recipes, but haven't explored many other amaros on my own before. A few weeks ago, I decided to splurge and try a couple that I'd never worked with before.
I wound up with bottles of Averna and Zucca. These share a dark, intense, herbal quality but have very different takes. Averna is appropriately Sicilian, full of black liquorice, orange peel, and a hint of walnut. Zucca focuses on jammy red fruit, dark spices, and an interesting astringency (possibly from the inclusion of rhubarb).
Both of these are quite pleasant on their own over ice with a liberal splash of soda water; this makes for a simple, bittersweet apertif. I've also seen them used in recipes like the Black Manhattan, but thought they might really shine as supplements in a classic old-fashioned.
#1 (Papa Averna)
2 oz aged rum (Plantation 20th Anniversary, because that's how I roll)
1/2 oz Averna
1/4 oz orgeat (homemade)
2 dashes orange bitters (Regan's No. 6)
Stir over ice in a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel, if you want.
#2 (Papa Zucca)
2 oz bourbon (delicious Willett Pot Still Reserve)
1/2 oz Zucca
1/4 oz orgeat (I had a bunch left over from some as-yet-unposted Easter cocktails)
2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura)
Stir over ice in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry, if you're feeling fancy.
These are both old-fashioned and bitter - hence the term "grandfather cocktails". Get it?!? (Sorry, I occasionally fall victim to compulsive punning.)