The bottles: Baltimore Spirits Company’s Baltamaro, $29.99-$34.99

The back story: Baltimore has been in the news recently because of the ongoing battle between President Trump and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings concerning the state of the city. (Trump called the town a “rat and rodent infested mess.”)

But we’re not here to get into politics. We’re here to talk booze — from Baltimore.

Baltimore Spirits Company has been producing a variety of sips from its namesake city since 2015. The enterprise clearly fits into the craft spirits movement, but founder and CEO Max Lents says the idea behind it was to celebrate Baltimore’s growing creative sensibility. “Our friends were dancers, artists, and creators. People who may have had limited means but had big ideas. And somehow the Baltimore culture and community gave them the means to fulfill their vision. When you love a community like that, it drives you to want to create and not just consume,” he says.

The company has gone on to produce a variety of spirits, such as its Shot Tower Gin (the name refers to a Baltimore landmark) and Epoch Rye (Maryland has a rich history of rye making). But it has also become known for its Baltamaro — as in Baltimore-made amaro, the herbal liqueur associated with Italy. And it’s a good time to get in the amaro business: The category has surged of late because of the interest in such classic examples as Campari and Aperol, both known for their unique blend of bitter and sweet flavors.

Baltimore Spirits Company’s approach was to take amaro in both traditional and unusual directions with different releases. The former is represented by its Fernet Baltamaro ($34.99), created somewhat in the manner of Fernet Branca, another familiar Italian amaro. And in the latter vein is the Szechuan Baltamaro ($29.99), which plays off the spicy flavors of the Chinese province. Lents says the idea behind Baltamaro is to reflect the city itself: “It’s an old city with deep rich history, but it’s always breaking into new creative spaces, always pushing boundaries, and never settling.”

What we think about them: These are well-crafted versions of amaro with a playful sensibility. The Fernet is bitter, to be sure, but much more approachable than Fernet Branca and has a nice note of mint. The Szechuan balances fruity and peppery flavors with finesse.

How to enjoy them: These can be had neat, but Lents suggests serving them over ice with an orange twist. And cocktails are a possibility as well. Use the Szechuan, for example, in place of Campari in a Negroni, the favorite Italian drink.

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2019-08-02