I’m still not sure if I like Melbourne. Perhaps I have Stockholm Syndrome but I miss Sydney’s beaches, its bitchiness, its shallow beautiful beat.
And yet in a dingy laneway I did find something that makes me feel better about Melbourne: a great little bar that serves an amaro of the week.
Never mind that Bar Americano – which is so tiny there isn’t even room for chairs or stools – looks like something out of a Bogart movie, with its old black and white chequered floor tiles, wood panelling, white subway wall tiles, and alcohol kept in crystal decanters. What I’m excited about is that they have amaro.
For those who aren’t heavily into cocktails or have an Italian fetish, an amaro is a bitter sweet digestif made with an exotic (at least in my mind) concoction of herbs, roots, citrus peels, bark and alcohol (often wine).
And although digestifs are supposed to be drunk after dinner (either straight or on ice), I believe in drinking them all day round – or in cocktails, where they add complexity and … well, oomph. For example, you can always replace the Campari in a negroni with an amaro – or, for that matter, the sweet vermouth (in which case you would have the la dura vita cocktail).
Now, in Australia you can normally buy one or two brands of amaro (ie Amaro Averna) – but to find a place that serves varieties I’d never even heard of has tempted me to begin reviewing bars, even after my dummy spit about how I would never, ever be so foolish as to do that again.
But I won’t.
PS For those who are interested, Bar Americano is at 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne CBD. Its cocktails are geared for those who love bitter cocktails such as the negroni – and if your mother dropped you on your head as a baby and you don’t like negronis, then try something such as the Brooklyn (made with rye, raspberry maraschino, Italian vermouth, bitters).