Our Project Amaro program had an unlikely birth.
What we wanted to do was make a rhubarb liqueur. Our test batches were great and the rhubarb shone through as planned. As such, we bought a ton of rhubarb for bigger batches and started production. But that bigger batch didn’t quite match the test batches in flavor. Even after testing it with six local bartenders, no one loved it.
So then we decided to transfer it into used whiskey barrels from Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane WA USA. We let it all rest there while we figured out just what to do.
In talking to more bartenders, lots more of them, we often heard, “Why don’t you make amaro?”
One bartender in particular was quite influential in our process: Keith Waldbauer. We sat at his Liberty Bar, and he patiently schooled us on amaro. We already knew the basics, but Keith massively expanded our knowledge. We learned the depth and breadth of the category, and had a numbing realization that we just couldn’t make it on our own. Amaro is very sophisticated and complicated and, at its best, is a sensory journey. Flavors abound, ordered and balanced. It’s really difficult to pull off well.
Bartenders in Seattle had championed our brand in the past so we went back to those folks who had supported us from the beginning. We asked seven local bartenders if they wanted to make amaro with us and our excess rhubarb. We thought maybe two would say yes, but instead all seven did. That led us to making seven different amaro, learning a heck of a lot more in the process.
Upon the initial release, Seattle bartenders embraced the amaro. So we decided to make more, and work with more bartenders in more cities. Now we do annual limited edition releases in different cities. We see it as an exploration of the terroir and palate of a particular city, with each defining its own style.
Bartenders who participate in Project Amaro usually choose ingredients that are regional in taste or production since each city handles bitter and sweet in different ways.