The New York Times‘ disdain for the Aperol spritz seems to have only reignited everyone else’s love for the drink this summer. But if you are looking for something a little more complex, there’s now a local alternative to the bitter-sweet orange liqueur. DC Italian-style distillery Don Ciccio & Figli recently released Ambrosia, an aperitivo made with blood orange, cantaloupe, carrots, turmeric, and nine botanicals.
This is not the first time that Don Ciccio founder Francesco Amodeo has created an Aperol competitor. In 2015, he launched what he hoped would be a spritz-friendly bitter orange liqueur called Cinque. But because it was so much more robust, consumers ended up using it like Campari for drinks such as negronis rather than sipping it with Prosecco and soda water.
“I thought maybe I launched Cinque ten years too early. Maybe if I relaunched Cinque five years from now, the palates would have grown accustomed to bitterness,” Amodeo says.
Ambrosia, however, is Amodeo’s sweetest amaro to date. In fact, if you try it on its own, it’s actually sweeter than Aperol. Rather than the bitterness hitting you right away, it slowly unfolds as you sip it.
All of Amodeo’s liqueurs are based on his Amalfi Coast family’s recipes dating back more than a century. Ambrosia is no exception. Amodeo took a family recipe that combined bitter orange and cantaloupe then put his own take on it. He amped up the cantaloupe and added blood orange for extra fruitiness and juiciness. His wife’s turmeric health craze inspired him to add the bright orange root, while red and purple carrots contribute to the striking sunset color.
If you want to test out the liqueur, stop by Don Ciccio’s brand new amaro distillery in Ivy City. Tours of the facility end with free samples of all 15 of Don Ciccio & Figli’s products, and bottles of Ambrosia are available for $35. (You’ll also find it at local retailers.) An adjoining bar sells build-your-own spritzes and other cocktails. Beyond spritzes, Amodeo says Ambrosia blends well with mezcal, and he’s planning to add a drink to the menu this summer that combines the two along with fennel liqueur and lime juice.
As for the Aperol spritz? Amodeo is still a fan. He’s Italian, after all, and the Aperol spritz is a staple of Italian drinking culture.
“I just wanted to create an alternative, especially domestically—something that people can actually come and see made,” Amodeo says. “Because for the longest time we always supported these big companies that you didn’t even know who was behind it.”
Ambrosia Spritz Recipe
Makes one drink
1 3/4 ounces Ambrosia Aperitivo
1/4 ounce soda water
2 1/2 ounces Prosecco
Combine ingredients in a glass with ice. Garnish with an orange slice.
Don Ciccio & Figli. 1907 Fairview Ave., NE.