Wine Around Town: Amaro Spirits & Wines
Some people like roaming around museums and libraries, I prefer to peruse the shelves of local wine shops.
Like each bottle of wine tells a story, I believe that every local wine store adds a unique thread to the fabric of its community. From friendly owners and regular customers, to the types of red, white and sparkling wines they carry, each wine shop exists for a reason - and that’s to teach us more about the beauty of wine.
In this installment of Wine Around Town, I’m showing love to Amaro Spirits & Wine - a Park Slope treasure chest located on 7th Avenue that opened in August 2018. Steve Fromhart, Amaro’s owner, opened the store out of his love for amaro that began over 30 years when he first started bartending for a living. He and his wife have lived in Park Slope for 16 years, and currently live six blocks away from the store. “I’m meeting newcomers to the neighborhood and people who have lived here for decades who I’ve never known, and I absolutely love it,” Steve said. “This is a neighborhood shop, and I’m proud of that.”
I wandered into Amaro after spending an afternoon wine tasting at Brookvin - a cozy wine bar just a few blocks down that I’ll tell you all more about later.
I asked Steve a few questions about what makes Amaro special, the shop’s unique offerings, and how traveling to Italy ultimately served as encouragement for him to start a business in wine.
How did you get into the spirits industry?
Steve Fromhart: My first bartending job was at an Italian restaurant in Clifton, New Jersey owned by two native Italians who had many Italian customers who expected their after-dinner digestive standard, the amaro. As such, we carried every brand that was imported at the time (in 1987) and quite a few that were not. As a “fine dining” establishment, this restaurant was also my introduction to fine wine. My bartending years lasted a decade, spanning many types of establishments, and then for the next following two decades I traveled, lived in Italy and worked in the financial services corporate world as a research analyst and manager, and I never gave up dreaming of opening a wine shop with an amaro specialization. I’ve visited Italy at least once a year for 20 years where I have indulged in my amaro hobby, and, oh, did I mention that I just happened to marry a woman (I swear it was a coincidence) whose parents are from Italy? Let’s just say that I’ve had a lot of encouragement.
What are some of Amaro's unique offerings?
SF: We have approximately 50 amari, as well as 13 herb-based aperitivi that are really just milder amaro variants. No store in my vicinity, to my knowledge, matches that. My biggest stroke of luck has been that the amaro has become an integral ingredient in the cocktail scene. Until recently, I drank an amaro neat or with ice after dinner. I’m truly excited about their use in cocktails, though, and am eager to learn along with my customers – maybe a bit faster, so I can be an asset to customers who are already versed in amari or who I convince to share my love for the amaro.
We specialize in wine from small producers who by nature practice organic and sustainable farming. We concentrate on spirits from artisanal distilleries, including many New York products, such as Brooklyn Republic Vodka, Dorothy Parker Gin, Southern Tier Bourbon, Five and 20 Rye, 1911 Gin, Marseille Amaro, St Agrestis Amaro, and Ragtime Rye to name a few.
If you could describe Amaro in three words, what would they be?
Well, our tagline is “Drink Better; Drink Bitter,” so let me cheat a little and riff off of that:
1. Bitter. Amaro is the Italian word for their classification of a type of after-dinner digestive liquor comprised of many herbs, roots and spices, many of them with medicinal origins, but “amaro” also literally means “bitter” in Italian)
2. Better. We carefully curated wine and spirits selection offerings and hire knowledgeable staff.
3. International. It’s not unusual to walk in the store and hear me speaking to someone in Italian, or Sharon speaking Spanish or about her experiences working with wine in Argentina, or Maryam speaking French or to a fellow South African.
If you’re in Park Slope, be sure to stop by Amaro for a daily tasting or just to look around and play with The Fromharts’ dog Rizzo. You can also visit their website, follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and sign up for their weekly newsletter that describes what they’re tasting for the weekend.