Tough economic conditions in Italy have restaurants there quietly liquidating their cellars, and as a result, New York is awash in Italian wines from the mid-20th century in a way that it never has been before. Barolo from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s is available for the asking at restaurants like Maialino and at specialist retailers. But where there hasn’t been much development in the New York market is in vintage Italian spirits. Vintage offerings from France and Scotland have long enjoyed prominence on bar shelves here, but Italy has lagged behind. The wave of amaro — the bitter, macerated spirit — that has swept over bars and restaurants in New York has largely been confined to items recently released from producers. A friend of an aficionado buyer might find something antique in their glass if they stopped by a bar at the right moment, but the options were never publicized or listed on a menu. New York hasn’t had a showcase venue for vintage Italian amari in the way that Chicago or San Francisco has enjoyed for awhile.
But the situation changed this month when Del Posto introduced a menu of back vintage amari from the 1960s and 1970s. Producer names that are well known to amaro fans today, like Cynar and Braulio, are available at Del Posto in pours from bottle aged versions. Other available offerings have less name recognition, like Cudia 61 and Gavioli Fernet. And there is an assortment of vintage Rabarbaro — amaro macerated with rhubarb roots — including a well-known source, Zucca, and a less known operation, Bergia. They all share colorful and distinctive labels that recall a different era of design, and of drinking.
At the moment there are nine different options on the vintage amari menu at Del Posto and altogether, this is a collection that you won’t find anywhere else in town at the moment. "A lot of this stuff is unique, you can’t get more than a bottle of these sometimes," comments Michael Greeson, Del Posto’s Wine Director. Greeson, who worked with his supplier to determine the age of the bottles, has them broken down by decade. He also collaborated with Del Posto’s pastry department to develop a special biscuit that can be paired with the old amari on the menu. Prices have been set at $39 a glass across the board. A flight of three is available for $79. Those tariffs might discourage casual exploration, but fans of amaro have few chances outside of Italy to experience something similar.
The current Del Posto lineup is:
- Bergia Rabarbaro (1970s)
- Branca Menta (1960s)
- Braulio (1960s)
- Cudia 61 (1960s)
- Gavioli Fernet (1960s)
- Martini & Rossi Fernet (1960s)
- Pezziol Cynar (1960s)
- Ramazzotti Rabarbaro (1960s)
- Zucca Rabarbaro (1970s)