Can’t Have Sweet Without Bitters: Amor y Amargo

If you’re not looking for Amor y Amargo, you might miss it. The tiny bitters tasting room, hidden in Alphabet City, boasts no flashy signs. It doesn’t have a cloaked window or blasting music. Instead, it showcases a beautiful collection of bar tools and bottles in its window, mirroring the artistic beverages that are made inside. A chalkboard out front highlights its impressive daily drink specials, always using one main ingredient: bitters.

Amor y Amargo was conceptualized by Mixologist Sother Teague in 2011 through his infatuation with the use of bitters in cocktails – from sweet to savory, bitter to smooth, and everything in between. The tasting room’s décor is dark, cozy and romantic, making it the perfect place to post up for the evening. Lining the walls of the bar are bitters bottles available for purchase, ranging in flavors like dandelion, chili-lime, grapefruit, fennel, cherry-vanilla and more.

The best way to go about ordering a drink at Amor y Amargo is to give the bartenders free reign. There’s no doubting that these guys have perfected their craft, and they enjoy creating custom cocktails for their guests based on their taste preferences.

We sat down with Sother to hear about how he got his start in mixology and where he developed his passion for bitters.

 

Soho Grand: How did you get your start in mixology?

Sother Teague: I was a chef for 12 years before I accidentally got a job bartending. Once I discovered the guest interaction aspect of front of house work, I’ve never looked back.

 

SG: What drew you to working with bitters? 

ST: My time in the kitchen afforded me a very savory palette, bitters are the savory aspect in cocktails. I was drawn like a moth to a flame. I used to cook food, now I just make chilled soup. . .

 

SG: Can you share something unique about bitters that general cocktail-lover may not know?

ST: I feel that no cocktail is complete without bitters. I compare cocktails to soup, and bitters to seasoning. You wouldn’t eat unseasoned soup would you?!

 

SG: What makes Amor y Amargo unique from other cocktail bars and lounges in NYC?

ST: Intimacy and guest interaction are the key components to the guest experience at my bar. Every guest gets a consultative service from the bartender. The world of amaro and bitters can be daunting and we’re here to guide you to the best possible experience.

 

SG: What are the flavor profiles that you look for in a good cocktail?

ST: The difference between a good cocktail and a great one is balance. I look for that first, then I try and coax flavors forward that make sense to the season or atmosphere. There are untold numbers of flavor combinations but, balance comes first.

 

SG: What is your favorite cocktail for summer? (Can you share a recipe?)

ST: The Negroni is king in summer! Lucky for us, the variations are limitless. Another great aspect is that none of the ingredients is critically perishable (vermouth has a time-limit but, you can use it before it expires).

I define the Negroni as Spirit, Vermouth, Amaro and, bitters. My favorite summer version is the Waterproof Watch. It tastes juicy and refreshing without any juice!

 

Waterproof Watch 

.75 oz Amaro Montenegro

.75 oz Aperol

1.5 oz London Dry Gin (I use Beefeater)

2 dash Degroff’s Pimento bitters

Pour all ingredients into s mixing glass and top with plenty of ice. Stir to chill and slightly dilute. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Express the oil from an orange twist over the drink and drop into the glass. Enjoy!

 

SG: Amor y Amargo offers classes for those interested in learning how to use them. What’s the process in your classes? 

ST: Most people are interested in my Bitters and Amaro session. We talk about the history of both as well as make classic and contemporary cocktails using them. Everyone gets a great education and a seriously good buzz.

 

SG: Have you ever had a “student” teach you something new?

ST: Teaching is learning, so every class I teach I find a little nugget to use in the next class. I love it.

 

Amor y Amargo is located at 443 East 6th Street, New York, NY. For more information, visit: https://www.amoryamargony.com/

 

Words by Dylan Armstrong