These Brooklyn-Made Amari Add Dimension and Depth to the Classic Italian Drink
New York chef Patrick Miller became besotted with amari—the Italian herbal liqueurs often served as digestifs—during his initial years at Rucola, the Northern Italian restaurant he opened in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill in 2011. He realized that his memories of Italy and of his discerning Italian grandparents, who loved making and sipping spirits, could serve as inspiration for new iterations of the drink. “I wanted to make spirits that were more balanced than what existed, and felt I could make something worthy of a well-stocked bar,” he says. After a few years of tinkering with making bitters, he left the restaurant and launched the spirits company Faccia Brutto—cheekily named after the Italian term for “ugly face”—in 2020, with a distillery in the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
Now served in select New York establishments and stocked in liquor stores throughout the Northeast (plus a few in California), Faccia Brutto’s libations add dimension and depth to classic Italian amari. Using traditional methods and ingredients sourced from environmentally responsible farms, the drinks are made with minimal sugar and are enhanced by salt, a strategy carried over from Miller’s cheffing days. The approach, he says, yields a more flavorful and nuanced product.
Faccia Brutto currently offers four ways to soothe the stomach. The seasonal, small-batch Nocino, imbued with green walnuts from the Pacific Northwest, smacks of maple syrup and vanilla extract, while Fernet Pianta, a pepperminty riff on digestifs made by Miller’s grandpa and naturally colored with roasted chicory root, has a cool, wintery tang. A swig of the wintergreen-flavored Amaro Alpino, a bittersweet blend of 14 mountain plants, or the Amaro Gorini, a zesty orange tonic named after Miller’s grandma, is equally satisfying. To bookend a meal, we suggest starting off with a Negroni or spritz made with the label’s bittersweet Aperitivo, crafted from dried hibiscus, kola nut, and two oranges per bottle.