Amaro means bitter in Italian, it is also the name of a category of after-dinner drinks, or digestivi. Usually registering from 16-35% alcohol, these liqueurs are flavored with any number of citrus, herbs, flowers, and roots.
The flavoring agents are left to macerate with a neutral alcohol base. Once maceration is completed, sugar is added to the solution and the product is left to age in casks or bottles.
Historically, amari were made in pharmacies and sold as medicinal tonics. The particular blend of herbs and roots were thought to have curative powers.
Today, amari are still used to aid in digestion, but they have their place behind the bar, rather than the medicine counter. There has been a recent trend among mixologists to use amari in a wide range of inventive cocktails, though Italians still prefer their after-dinner digestive neat.
There is flexibility within the category in the usage, and some of the lighter amari are taken as an aperitif. In the Nonino household, they serve their amaro to guests before dinner. They like it neat, with a slice of blood orange.