Liquid Arizona: The Craftsman Amaro

Craig OuthierNovember 1, 2023
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The beer mavens behind Two Brothers Artisan Brewing make Italy’s famously herbal liqueur the duce of its Arizona-based spirits program. 

Photo by Angelina Aragon.

Legend tells us of ancient Italian amaro houses so torn by rivalry, the guarded formula of the beverage in question is split in two, so one faction has no advantage over the other. Luckily, Jason and Jim Ebel needed no such indemnity when they started bottling spirits at The Craftsman Cocktails & Kitchen in 2020. “We trust each other,” Jason laughs. Having steered Chicago-based craft beer giant Two Brothers Artisan Brewing to worldwide domination in the 2010s, the siblings chose Scottsdale as the launch pad for their distillery-pub concept, now with three Valley locations. The Craftsman amaro is the seventh and most recent addition to their retail spirits line – one of a tiny handful of amari distilled in Arizona, and by far the most complicated beverage in the portfolio. Jason gave us a peek at the formula.

Prized for their medicinal and digestive properties, amari can range from cough-syrup-like fernet styles to light, floral variants similar to vermouth. The Ebels’ preferred style: “A very herbaceous and forwardly bitter amaro,” on the less-sweet end of the “medium amaro” spectrum. 

Starting with The Craftsman’s corn-based vodka, Jason and his team add 28 different herbs and botanicals, including cinchona bark, wild grape root, peppercorn and five types of citrus peel. As a nod to the company’s beer roots, they also use Citra hops in the mash. 

After a nine-day-steep, the amaro is introduced into repurposed IPA barrels to impart further flavoring. The Ebels use the solera method – a winemaking system in which only a portion of each barrel is bottled per season, allowing new and aged amaro to mingle in perpetuity.

“We do back-sweeten it a little bit with cane sugar” before bottling, Jason says, if the amaro is deemed too bitter. The result: a woodsy, complex herbal liqueur with seductive eddies of saffron and burnt orange. 

Clearly in love with his creation, Jason prefers it neat or used in lieu of sweet vermouth in a “midnight” Manhattan. “I don’t think there’s any [other amaro] quite like it,” he says. Amaro-zona, if you will.

$35

The Craftsman Amaro
Available at Total Wine or The Craftsman locations.
thecraftsmanaz.com