You Should Be Sipping Cardamaro, A Wine-Infused Aperitif

One of the summer's delights is extending your leisure time. Where there's extra leisure, some cocktail experimentation usually follows. Several Italian coastal favorites have garnered quite a following in recent years, particularly Aperol and limoncello spritzes. However, there's another lesser-known aperitif beckoning us this summer.

Cardamaro is derived from a particular type of cardoon (the Nizza Monferrato) that is typical in the cuisine of Italy's Piedmont region. Cardoons are relatives of the artichoke and sunflower, whose edible portions look like celery when prepared. Midway between a flower and vegetable, cardoons taste like somewhat bitter artichokes, and the Nizza Monferrato has a particularly delicate flavor, which shines through in Cardamaro, with only a hint of bitterness. 

The spirit is a kind of amaro, but Italy is home to a wide range of amaro liqueurs, and Cardamaro is lighter than many others. Cardamaro has an unusual formulation; It incorporates both high-proof alcohol, which is mixed with Nizza Monferrato cardoon, blessed thistle, and other botanicals, and then mixed with sweetened Moscato wine. 

Spanning the spectrum

Cardamaro's wine content makes it lower in alcohol (17%) than its wholly spirit-based counterparts and gives it a sweetness that offsets the bitterness of its vegetable and herbal notes. It is aged in oak casks and demonstrates a deeply fragrant, spicy quality that hints at its origins.

Because of the unusual way it is made, Cardamaro is hard to classify; It can be considered  an amaro or an "aromatized wine."  Vermouth is the best-known aromatized wine, and Cardamaro can be used in many of the same ways as vermouth. You can drink it mixed with tonic soda water, straight over ice (the standard way of drinking vermouth in Northern Spain), or as a replacement for vermouth in mixed drinks like the Negroni. Some like it as a mixer with whiskey and apple brandies.

Its unique classification means that Cardamaro can be enjoyed as either an aperitif (traditionally, a before-dinner drink for whetting the appetite) or as a digestif (an after-dinner drink used for aiding digestion). This means that you don't need to risk being that gauche American who drinks it at the wrong time. There is no wrong time to drink Cardamaro. Cheers!