Anna van der Heijden

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Amor Y Amargo (love and bitters), the East Village bar that has been a staple on every cocktail aficionado’s favorites list for years, opened a second location in Williamsburg last week. The concept is the same: all drinks are made with bitters, amari, and a lot of love. 

“The main difference is that everything is a little bit larger than the one in the East Village—that one is really tiny,” said Sother Teague, the co-owner and Beverage Director at Amor Y Amargo. “But I’m actually trying to do some things to make it smaller. My colleagues laugh at me, because I literally built a box in the corner of the room—it’s hollow, there’s nothing inside. I just wanted to take up some space to make the bar a bit more intimate.” 

At Amor Y Amargo, you won’t see bartenders flipping cocktail shakers in the air or decorating glasses with lots of bells and whistles. The drinks are stirred, not shaken, and don’t involve any juices, just alcohol-based ingredients like bitters and amari. Teague quickly explains the difference. Basically, there are two main categories of bitters: potable bitters and tinctures. Potable bitters are drinkable by the glass and tinctures are used by the drop—they’re like the seasoning to a drink. Amaro is a type of potable bitter. 

Teague got the inspiration for this type of ingredient-focused bar from his 12 years working as a chef. He puts it this way: You wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant that sells spaghetti, sushi, and tacos, but you would love to go to a restaurant that specializes in great spaghetti. He wondered, why don’t we apply the same concept to our bars? After nine years of successfully running Amor Y Amargo in the East Village—which once started as a pop-up—he can confidently say that the concept works. It creates a sense of togetherness, even with the people in the bar you don’t know, because everyone is drinking the same type of drink. 

“All of the bars I’ve opened have a focus,” said Teague. “But my favorite is Amor Y Amargo, hands down. It’s just so unique and precious. We’re unassuming and friendly to everyone. If you want to come in and learn something, the staff would be happy to teach you about our drinks. But if you just want to enjoy a drink by yourself, that’s great, too.” 

Their menu has three staples, just like the East Village location, and seven seasonal drinks. Four times a year, Teague assigns his bartenders a few ingredients and asks them to come up with a list of recipes. For the new bar, they decided to start with seven of their East Village fan favorites.

The spacious new venue, located at 188 Havemeyer Street, has walls covered in chalet-style, wooden planks and a long, brick-red marble bar, creating a warm atmosphere. The shelves and counter behind the bar are lined with what looks like hundreds of bottles, some from well-known brands, like Aperol and Campari, others from obscure ones, like Braulio. The bar also has a proper retail corner where they sell bitters, barware, and books, including Teague’s book “I’m Just Here For The Drinks.”

A week after its grand opening, on a Tuesday night around 6:10 p.m., there were two people sitting at the bar sipping a drink. One of them was Robert Patrizio. He loves amaro and is a regular at Amor Y Amargo’s East Village bar—he even brings the bartenders little bottles of amaro from his trips to Italy—and wanted to check out the new location. 

“There’s not really another place that just sells amaro-based drinks,” Patrizio said. “What’s great about amaro is that there’s a high variety in flavors. They can be sweet, bitter, or herb-y.”

As someone who’s not a long-time amaro fan, drinking a cocktail without any type of juice or soda might sound intimidating. But the drinks are perfectly balanced, smooth, and flavor-intense. 

Around 8 p.m., the bar got pretty crowded and people looked very pleased with their drinks. If you want to quench your thirst for a different type of cocktail yourself, the bar operates from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It’s closed on Mondays.

Images courtesy of Lucy Ballantyne/Lion & Lamb.

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