High Hat Café’s fig amaro cocktail

00:00 September 20, 2013
By: Kristal Blue
[Courtesy of Anne Berry]

It's simple to make your own amaro, though the most elusive ingredient could be patience.

"You can watch children become adults during this process," quips High Hat manager Ryan Iriarte, who writes different amaros behind the stick, switching out various fruits and flavors with the season.

These liqueurs get their name from the Italian word for "bitter" and are made by infusing a neutral-grain spirit or wine with bittering agents, like gentian root and orange peels.

Ryan used four pounds of local summer figs to make his current amaro, "cooking" them in Everclear with lemon peels, rosemary and sultry, hand-ground spices like coriander and cardamom.

Three weeks later, he fine-strained the mixture, then added gentian root and bitter orange peel. After soaking in the high-proof spirit for a week, he fine-strained the fig-flavored Everclear a final time, then stirred in honey simple syrup.

Like many high-volume craft bars, Ryan pre-batches what he can. He's bottled the fig amaro with a dry riesling and amaretto liqueur, which adds a touch of sweet almond. Together, they give off a perfume that's similar to that of Fernet Branca, though more subtle and approachable. It compares to lighter, more citrus-forward amari.

Once it's all shaken with fresh sour mix (a daily-made squeeze of lime, orange and lemon), it becomes Son House Punch (named for the long-lived bluesman) that's figgy and dry, with a tart finish. Texturally, the drink becomes almost creamy as the ice melts (a factor, Ryan says, of the figs).

Don't be intimidated by the process if you make your own amaro, but you'll want something in your hands while you wait - and for that, you should pull up to Ryan's ever-changing bar.

High Hat Café, 4500 Freret, 754.1336

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