Bitterness is a hard sell, especially in this country.
This started to change several years ago with the increase in popularity of astringent, hop-forward IPA beers. As Todd Leopold, the head distiller of Leopold Bros. distillery, puts it, “Americans discovered savory 10 minutes ago. They discovered bitter five minutes ago.”
The next blow in the battle for bitterness is surely Leopold Bros.’ striking new Aperitivo, the distillery’s version of a Campari or Aperol, that classic sitting-on-the-patio-watching-the-late-afternoon-light-play-on-the piazza-fountain appetite stimulator.
Leopold makes the Aperitivo with the distillery’s house spirit base to which he adds bitter gentian (a dried flowering plant) and he balances with cane sugar. “Too much and it tastes like cough syrup,” he says, “too little and it tastes like chalk.” He adds the citrus notes of grapefruit peel and coriander and the earthy notes of petite wormwood, hyssop, and, just to give it an American twang, sarsaparilla—the root in root beer.
Leopold Bros. recommends mixing the Aperitivo into a Negroni (gin, sweet Vermouth, Aperitivo) or a Boulevardier (the same drink but with whiskey standing in for gin), but it’s so on the money—one sip and your palate is still pleasantly tingling five minutes later—that it demands to be consumed by itself.
A 750 ml bottle of Leopold Bros’ Aperitivo runs about $34.99, leopoldbros.com