The Bitter Truth with Amor y Amargo
Written by: Anthony Hagan All Images courtesy of Amor y Amargo

Sometimes there is a need to underscore and uplift the things in life that are truly great.  This is important not because the particular thing (or this case, the place) needs to be introduced or re-introduced to the masses, but because Style.No.Chaser strongly believes in highlighting the awesomeness within everyone’s daily grasp. Amor y Amargo (AyA), a bar in the East Village of NYC (443 E 6th St.), whose Spanish name translates to “Love and Bitters” deserves honors and recognition now because it combines quality and innovation without the far-too-common snobbery.  This bitters-focused bar delivers a welcoming, fun and educational experience to a wide variety of mundane-weary clientele who recognize approachable innovation. 

We were lucky enough to get in contact with AyA’s creator Ravi DeRossi and AyA’s Beverage Director Sother Teague to pick their brains about their beautiful bar.  See it their responses below.

“No longer are guests willing to go to bars that serve everything in mediocrity …”

Tell us a little about how the concept for Amor y Amargo was born?

We started as a pop-up set to last for 6 months. We basically wanted to create a clubhouse for bartenders and industry friends to taste and sample both tincture and potable bitters in cocktails or on their own. As we neared the end of that 6 months we realized that more than just industry had an interest so we extended. Then we added our retail aspect where guests could buy bitters and barware and we extended our hours. We added Double Buzz (our weekend coffee and amaro service) to capture a daytime crowd and a new audience. We just kept innovating and, this month we are 4 years old! 

Could you describe Amor y Amargo’s typical clientele?

Adventurous cocktail drinkers as well as curious early adopters make up the bulk of our guests. But, this being NYC, we attract a broad scope of imbibers. 

Amor y Amargo offers some interesting classes; could you please elaborate on this?

We have an intimate space that lends itself easily to the classroom format. The most popular class is our cocktails 101. We discuss bitters, both tincture and potable, as well as deciphering vermouth and the 5 categories of gin. Then we make about 10 classic cocktails. It’s a blast. 

What is the most popular item on Amor y Amargo’s menu and why do you think it is?

The Sharpie Mustache. It’s a delicious NEGRONI variation employing Meletti Amaro. Meletti is derived from Kola nut. So it has a lot of leather and spice notes not unlike cola, backed up with herbal gin as well as spicy rye. It’s delicious and potent. “A few of these and I might wake up with a sharpie mustache” is how we named it. We serve it in a glass flask with a mustache decal on the bottle. 

Are focused (or conceptual/themed) establishments the bars of the future?

Yes. No longer are guests willing to go to bars that serve everything in mediocrity. They’d rather go to a bar that serves a specific selection well. Bars are evolving to be more in line with restaurants. Few people I know would go to a restaurant that serves sushi, tacos and spaghetti. But a spot that specializes in one of the three will draw a crowd. 

Ravi, you are behind some of New York’s favorite bars including Death and Co. and The Bourgeois Pig- what drives you to keep developing these amazing places/concepts?

When I was young my dad told me that whatever I do I should strive to be the best, even if I was to be a criminal he said, ‘don’t steal a thousand dollars, steal a million,’ I guess it’s that mentality that keeps me going, that commitment to achieving perfection.  Our perceived perfection changes constantly, so does my appetite to achieve it.  I also just really love what I do.

What do you think is the secret to having a successful NYC nightlife establishment with longevity?

Hospitality first and foremost. You’ve got to be welcoming and engaging to your guests at all times. Then, evolution, you can’t remain static. You’ve got to continue to grow without losing sight of your ethos or your audience and staff will get bored. 

What is the craziest thing you have seen or heard at one of your bars?

I live by a couple of codes. One being that I hear all and I say nothing. A bar is a place for you to escape your daily life, even become someone else. Whatever happens at the bar, stays at the bar, I don’t share those stories. 

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what drink do you think is the most iconic “man drink”? And what drink should every man have under his sleeves?

Every man should be able to make 3 classic cocktails. The Old Fashioned [sugar cube, splash of water, bitters, rye], the Manhattan [rye, sweet vermouth, bitters], and the Negroni [Gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, bitters].  There are no sub-recipes for these and they are easily prepared. Once the classic is mastered, variations are easily adapted. 

How can people learn more about Amor y Amargo’s happenings?

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter)! Recently at AyA we’ve begun a service called ‘Two Weeks Notice’ where we announce the event via our Facebook page. It’s a reservation only evening of a prix fixe menu of 3 cocktails paired with snacks. Lots of surprises and extremely fun. It typically sells out within 48 hrs.

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