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Balsam, a new Chicago amaro, is now available

Amy Cavanaugh
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Amy Cavanaugh
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We've waited awhile for this one—Balsam, a new amaro from Chicagoans Rodrick Markus (Rare Tea Cellar) and bartender Adam Seger (Hum Spirits) became available for retail this week. The pair, who started working together by making bitters, including a truffle version, teamed up with Pennsylvania potato vodka distiller Boyd & Blair to create Balsam, an amaro that will turn wines into vermouth. I sampled some about a year and a half ago, before all the labels and such were approved by the government, and it's really cool, since it tastes different with different wines. The base spirit, made with distilled potatoes, is mixed with Rare Tea Cellar Pu-erh teas along with spices, citrus, herbs, roots and other ingredients, including wormwood, which is required in European vermouths, and appears in some new American vermouths as well. It's basically everything that's in a vermouth, minus the wine.

To use Balsam, you add red or white wines to the liqueur, and then use the mixture as you would any vermouth (that includes drinking it on its own). So what's the appeal? Getting to customize your own vermouth, for one. But the greatest appeal for the home bartender is getting to mix single servings of vermouth, because standard vermouth goes bad quickly. Since Balsam doesn't have wine, it'll have a longer shelf life.

Find it at Lush Wine & Spirits, where it's retailing for $37, as well as Mariano's locations in Chicago.

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