Posted on | February 25, 2016
Written by | Sara Kay
Sother Teague is the brains behind Amor y Amargo (“Love and Bitters” in Spanish), a tiny East Village bar (formerly the dry storage room for the kitchen it’s attached to) that functions as a bit of a shrine to bitter cocktails.
“It’s important not to get stuck on the word ‘bitter,’” says Teague. The word can mean different things to different people. Behind the bar, bitterness is really a tool, incorporated into cocktails two basic ways—as tincture or potable bitters.
Tincture bitters, such as Angostura and Peychaud’s brand bitters, are known for their potency (in alcohol, flavor intensity and aromatics) and have little or no sweetness. “In the world of cocktails, tincture bitters are meant to bring balance” he notes. A few drops go a long way.
“When making cocktails, people mix with some kind of sweetener,” he continues. “Here we use amaros [the second type of bitters] as our sweetener because they are bittersweet. They bring balance and that final note of layered seasoning.” Potable bitters (as their name suggests) are less intense, and include such brands as Aperol, Campari and Cynar; these vary in strength and flavor.
Teague suggests describing bitter cocktails by their components. “We try to encourage people not to look at the menu and say ‘I like gin, so I’ll like this gin cocktail,’” he says. “We focus on what flavors are in the actual drink, and sell them with that.”
Amor y Amargo arranges the drinks on their menu from least to most potent. At the top of the “House Favorites” section, Di Pompelmo delivers the intersection of bitter, tart and sweet.
By Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo
1½ oz Altos Tequila
¾ oz Cocchi Americano
¼ oz Bittermens Citron Sauvage
¾ oz Aperol
2 dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters
Garnish: Grapefruit Twist
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir to chill and dilute. Strain into a glass over fresh ice. Express the oil from the grapefruit twist over the drink and place in the glass.