Gruppo Montenegro is moving beyond the traditional market of Italian restaurants into Britain's cocktail bars, led by its Amaro Montenegro and its relaunched bittersweet Aperitivo Select.
After partnering earlier this year with Mangrove Global to build its portfolio in the on- and off-trade in the UK, it has been promoting the versatility of its 23% abv Amaro Montenegro beyond the classic way of serving it neat as a digestif.
Bars and restaurants are being encouraged to offer the amaro in simple serves such as with tonic over ice and in a MonteMule, mixed with ginger beer and lime juice over ice.
The amaro is also being promoted for use in cocktails in the on-trade, supported by UK brand ambassador Rudi Carraro, formerly at Artesian bar at London's Langham hotel. Activities have included the international Vero Bartender Competition, which culminated last month in a UK final at the Ham Yard Hotel in London.
The winner was Aleksandra Jaworska of Bullard & Worth, formerly Bryant & Mack, in Edinburgh, with her Aperitivo Francescano serve, which combined the amaro with Montelobos Mezcal infused with smoked figs, a fig solution and Port of Leith Distillery oloroso sherry, complemented by a side dish of Italian mortadella sausage and a sprinkle of dehydrated figs and salt. She will represent the UK at the global final in Bologna in Italy in November.
Gruppo Montenegro has also launched the new look for its bitter spirit Aperitivo Select in the UK after unveiling a revamped design in the USA in July. Created in Venice in 1920, the drink now comes in a bottle inspired by 1920s Art Deco, with decorative elements relating to the city's fashionable cafes of the time and a new bottle shape representing the hand-blown glass artistry of Murano, the island near Venice where the spirit was later made.
The signature serve is a Venetian Spritz, made with three parts prosecco, two parts Aperitivo Select and one part soda over ice, but it is also promoted for cocktails such as a twist on a Negroni, substituting the Campari.
'Select is the original Venetian aperitif,' said Nick Gillet, managing director of Mangrove Global. 'It was being used in the Spritz in the 1920s so it appeals to anyone who wants a little more authenticity to their Spritz menu or those that want a slightly more premium or differentiated offering.
'It has been relaunched and repackaged to more accurately reflect its heritage and, while its main use is in the Spritz and therefore its volume ties to the ongoing popularity of that drink, it has many other uses too.'
At 17.5% abv, Select Aperitivo is made with 30 botanicals including juniper and rhubarb root, which provides intensely bitter notes for balance.
Gillet said that the opportunities for Amaro Montenegro were 'huge'. 'The liquid has incredible complexity and, due to the ingredients and production process, a drinks professional can find any number of flavour contributors on which to build a whole array of drinks.'
Made to a secret recipe, the amaro is a blend of 40 botanicals, of which five are micro-distilled and added at the end as what the company calls the 'Premio'. The result is an amber liquid balanced between sweet and bitter. It was created in Bologna in 1885 by distiller Stanislau Cobianchi.
'The whole process and rich history make it a really interesting product,' Gillet added. 'There are not just examples of mixology across Europe and the USA which demonstrates this but a lot of simple serves which show its versatility and show it has a place in a more mainstream channel.'
Mangrove Global has also taken on Gruppo Montenegro's brandy, Vecchia Romagna, which is the number-own brown spirit in Italy. Originally created in Bologna in 1820 by French distiller Jean Bouton, it became part of Gruppo Montenegro in 1999. At 38% abv, it is distilled from the Trebbiano grape, known as Ugni Blanc in France.