The Amaro Montenegro Residency Project
Not all brand trips are equal. Some focus on the production of a spirit for example whilst others talk about a long & storied history of the family that brought the product to life. There’s been no trip quite like our week in Italy with Amaro Montenegro for its Amaro Residency project. The premise is simple - spend 5 days with Amaro Montenegro around the country. As straightforward as it sounds we at Cocktails For You think that what Amaro Montenegro pulled off is quite remarkable, unique & will stay with us for the rest of our lives!
All 15 members of the residency project were able to grab a glimpse of the very heart & soul of Italy. What you were taught in school or you read online doesn’t even come close to the fully-immersive experience we were so lucky to be a part of last week. So lets share the details...
The Master Herbalist & his Amaro... Matteo Bonoli started the week off with a in-depth masters class into distillation, working with botanicals & the secret ‘Premio’ that goes into every bottle of Amaro Montenegro worldwide. A secret passed down to him by his predecessors that makes Amaro Montenegro what it is. The history of the Amaro itself it quite peculiar as it is linked to the noble families of Bologna. The very protagonist of this Amaro is Elena of Montenegro who was given the Amaro as a gift after marrying the King of Italy at the time. “We can only share 13 ingredients,” he says, opening a box that contains little jars of cinnamon, nutmeg, marjoram, and other stuff relatively easy to find at the supermarket. “They’re not so exciting.” He pulls out a jar of oregano. “This is a specific variety of oregano. If you go to the supermarket, you cannot find it.” Where is it from? “I can’t tell you.” The recipe for Amaro Montenegro is so closely held that no one person knows the entire thing—the 40 ingredients that go into the bottle are boiled, macerated, and distilled at a facility in southern Italy, and the people who work there aren’t allowed to talk to their Bologna co-workers. Bonoli, who has a PhD in food science, reports daily to a “secret room” above the main, stainless steel tank-lined production area to taste extracts of ingredients and amaro in various stages: unfiltered, before and after bottling. (It takes nine months to go from a pile of botanicals to the finished product.)
Glorious City of Florence The origins of the Renaissance movement trace themselves back to the city of flowers. Arguably the most important movement in the history of mankind in the last 300 years that lead to the enlightenment of the whole world to bring us where we are today. It is interesting to see the close ties between that period & the Church that obviously inspired so many of the great thinkers of the time. We were taken all around the city by the Global Ambassador of Amaro Montenegro Rudi Carraro as he shared with us hidden streets, niche details & centuries of legends that surrounded our group on every corner. The rule of Lorenzo il Magnifico (1469–92), Cosimo’s grandson, ushered in the most glorious period of Florentine civilisation and of the Italian Renaissance. His court fostered a flowering of art, music and poetry, turning Florence into Italy’s cultural capital. Not long before Lorenzo’s death, the Medici bank failed and the family was driven out of Florence. The city fell under the control of Savonarola, a Dominican monk who led a puritanical republic, burning the city’s wealth on his ‘bonfire of vanities’. But his lure was short-lived and after falling from favour he was tried as a heretic and executed in 1498.
After the Spanish defeated Florence in 1512, Emperor Charles V married his daughter to Lorenzo’s great-grandson Alessandro de’Medici, whom he made duke of Florence in 1530. Seven years later Cosimo I, one of the last truly capable Medici rulers, took charge, becoming grand duke of Tuscany after Siena fell to Florence in 1569 and ushering in more than 150 years of Medici domination of Tuscany.
In 1737 the grand duchy of Tuscany passed to the French House of Lorraine, which retained control, apart from a brief interruption under Napoleon, until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Florence briefly became the national capital but Rome assumed the mantle permanently in 1870.
The Cocktails For You Seminar in Il Locale As part of the Amaro Residency project we at Cocktails For You were sharing our seminar 'The Power of Social Media' for all the bartenders involved in a grand location known as Il Locale based in the Concini Palace. The history of the Concini Palace has an extensive and unique history strongly tied to Florentine politics during the time of the Medici family. Undergoing a recent restoration, the space has been brought back to life.
The remarkably preserved Concini Palace is a time machine that takes us back to the 1200s and 1500s. Its first owners were the Bastari Rittaffè family in the 1200s, and the palace is situated in the historic noble quarter of the city. On the sides of the basement, there is an old cellar that was used to preserve the owners’ wine products. Wine was sold in flasks through “wine windows” which once overlooked via delle Seggiole. Some stone arches in this area may even date back to the Roman foundation of Florence (30-15BC). Recent research has highlighted, in fact, that the building is situated in an area close to the ancient Roman walls.
The home of Amaro Montenegro Our final stop was none other than Bologna & the home of the infamous Amaro. A city so majestic, old & grand but with a heart that beats harder & faster than ever as it is home to more than 80,000 students due to the high number of Universities. The blend of 20 metre wooden doors, ancient marble & the young vibrant population was something to behold. Everyone immediately felt at home in this ancient city that started life in the 6th century BC as Felsina. For two centuries it was the capital of the Etruscan Po valley territories until tribes from Gaul took over, renaming it Bononia. They lasted another couple of hundred years before surrendering to the Romans. As the Western Empire crumbled, Bologna was successively sacked and occupied by Visigoths, Huns, Goths and Lombards.
The city reached its pinnacle as an independent commune and leading European university around the 12th century. Wealth brought a building boom and every well-to-do family left its mark by erecting a tower – 180 of them in all, of which 15 still stand today. The endless tussle between the papacy and Holy Roman Empire for control of northern Italy inevitably involved Bologna. The city started by siding with the Guelphs (who backed the papacy), going against the Ghibellines, but adopted neutrality in the 14th century.
Following a popular rebellion against the ruling Bentivoglio family, during which the family’s palace was razed, papal troops took Bologna in 1506 and the city remained under their control until the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century. In 1860 Bologna joined the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the ‘Torre Prendiparte’. Bologna is famous for its towers that line the city as a symbol of power. The old saying goes the higher the tower the bigger the power & influence over the city of Bologna. On the basis of the information acquired by inspecting other towers demolished as far as the top of the foundations, it seems that towers were generally built on foundations with full walls, sufficiently deep into the ground, but scarcely protruding over the perimeter of the basis.
After the last information about a Prendiparte connected with the history of the Coronata tower, dating back to 1358, at the end of the 15th century the tower was bought by the Fabruzzi family, but it was confiscated from them in 1508, when the ruler of the town, Giovanni Bentivoglio, was exiled. However. two nuns belonging to that family managed to have it back shortly after that. They belonged to the convent of Santa Maria della Consolazione, and this convent later sold the tower to Ercole Seccadenari in 1530.
We were taken on a private tour of the tower by the current owner as well as being treated to a classic Bolognese Ragu after a special masterclass on how to make tagliatelle from a local Nona who’d been making them for over 20 years! That night we dined in the Ristorante I Portici in what was essentially an old Church basement with a unique sound room where depending on where you were standing you could hear what the other person was saying on the other side of the room even at a whisper!
All in all the Amaro Montenegro Residency is one of the best trips of the year for us at Cocktails For You. From all the different cities we visited to the unique experience of culture, food & drinks in North Italy all wrapped by the unique taste of Amaro Montenegro. We salute you & we don't know who could've done it better!