Easy Drinks: Your New Favorite Summer Drink Has Only Two Ingredients
"I kind of see amaro as the original bottled cocktail."
John deBary is the bar director of the Momofuku restaurant group, which means he's constantly around top-tier things to drink. But when he gets home, it's not like that: "My home bar is pretty sad, honestly—my idea of a fancy at-home cocktail is pouring gin into a half-drunk can of apricot LaCroix. But I love amaro, so I always have that around."
WATCH: John deBary Makes Amaro Spritzers
As you'd expect from a guy whose job is booze, he has a lot of thoughts about what makes a good, easy drink: "I kind of see amaro as the original bottled cocktail—it's a spirit that's been infused with botanicals so you already have all this complex flavor going on. You don't need to do a lot to it since it already has all that complexity built in, so it's really convenient for a nice, quick, refreshing drink."
"My idea of a fancy at-home cocktail is pouring gin into a half-drunk can of apricot LaCroix."
The other ingredient in that nice, refreshing drink is sparkling water. "Sparkling water opens up spirits, getting the alcohol kind of out of the way so you can really get the flavors better. And I like to gulp my drinks, so the lower-alcohol they are, the better shape I'm in."
deBary's made a lot of drinks in his time, and has a preferred way of building highballs: "I sandwich the soda around whatever I'm mixing with it, so I'll always pour soda first, then the spirit, then more soda. That way, it's a nice even distribution of the two ingredients and you don't have to mix two different layers of liquid together."
deBary's Quick Guide to Amaro:
One of my favorite amaros is Amaro Montenegro—I get rose, citrus, and vanilla from it. It actually kind of reminds me of Turkish delight. It's also a good introductory amaro for people, since it's not super bitter, it's lower in alcohol.
I also like Zucca. It's called a Rabarbaro, which means rhubarb, referring to its primary botanical, Chinese rhubarb. Chinese rhubarb has a long history in traditional medicine, and it has this very distinct flavor, kind of like fruity ketchup. It's a nice one for your home bar; I personally think it pairs really well with lime.
Brutto Americano is one of my most recent amaro finds—unlike most amaro, it's not from Italy; it's actually from Alameda, California. It's similar to Campari and often plays a similar role, but to me, it's a lot more rugged, kind of mysterious and piney, with a lot of herbal intensity, like walking around in the forest. For certain drinks, I actually prefer it to Campari—it makes a more intense, sharp, spicy Negroni—and it also makes a great highball.