Francesco Amodeo: That's Amaro
This Amalfi Coast Alchemist Brings Century Old Family Liqueur Recipes from Italy to DC
The Meat & Potatoes
Amazing chef ; )
Amaro - what is it exactly? Don Ciccio & Figli founder Francesco Amodeo and his ambassador, Jonathan Fasano, have been immersing me in all things amaro since they opened down the street from my house in 2012. The bittersweet, herbal Italian liqueurs are diverse and complex, which make them perfect for starting or ending your evening. The fresh and seasonal liqueurs are highlighted wonderfully in cocktails to whet your appetite, which bartenders all over DC are doing to come up with phenomenal creations unique to their restaurant or bar. After a big meal, amari are the perfect way to end an evening as a digestif. The medicinal properties actually help with digestion and leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
Prior to heading to the District, Amodeo achieved his certificate of master sommelier and earned his master of food and beverage management in 2004. He headed to DC in search of adventure and made a name for himself in the hospitality industry by working at notable spots Butterfield 9, Hook, Café Milano, and Bibiana.
Upon a visit to his family's property in Atrani, Italy, Amodeo discovered a crumbling building that had been a distillery dating from the 1880s, which had been used to produce artisanal liqueurs with fruit from the family orchards. The distillery and the lemon trees were completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1980 and Amodeo decided to revive the tradition.
The hard work and passion has paid off because Don Ciccio & Figli is now producing 1000 cases of their artisanal liqueurs a month and are distributed nationwide!
I caught up with Francesco at the distillery and learned about his favorite cocktail, the distilling process, and what he has up his sleeve for the future. Check it out...
Can you tell me about the style and traditional techniques you learned from your great-grandfather and grandfather? How is an artisanal liqueur born at Don Ciccio?
We treat every ingredient with respect. All ingredients go through a specific process before we start blending them together, from botanicals to sugar to water etc. Every process is done by hand, no fancy equipment.
What is your favorite thing to make using your products?
My favorite things is crafting cocktails, I love to experiment with our products. One favorite of mine is called the Alexis.
Which product are you most proud of and why?
Hard to say, they are all my kids. But if I had to pick, I'd go with the Amaro Sirene and the Luna, as they're named after my wife and daughter. Our logo is also modeled after my wife, who I thought resembled a beautiful a mermaid when we first met.
Ed. Note: Awwwwww!
Why is it important to support local distilleries and spirit artisans?
I believe our distilling community is trying to bring to the market something unique. DC can't be known just for politics, there are many family businesses that are producing amazing products.
What is one of your favorite memories of the family business? Do you remember tasting your first amalfi coast liqueur?
Unfortunately I only heard stories, I was born 2 years after the distillery forced to close.
Where can we find your products?
All the major liquor stores and many restaurants and bars in the area.
Do you prefer to keep your business small? any plans to expand?
We are already distributed in 22 states, in Spring 2017 we will cover 40 states nationwide.
What do you do with your leftover ingredients? lemons, oranges, etc.
We usually sell them to other local businesses or juice them to support all the bars that currently carry our spirits. Other dry botanicals we recycle them to create energy.
What cocktail do you order when you're out?
Something light like an Americano - especially an Amaro Americano - so I can pace myself throughout the night. This cocktail opens up the appetite and allows me to eat more without getting too full, too fast!
Ed. Note: An Americano is classically made with 1 oz. Campari, 1 oz. Vermouth and Club soda. Substitute the Campari with Donna Rosa, Sirene or Ferro Kina for a Don Ciccio spin!
Describe the distilling process to me from juicing to bottling:
Ingredients are infused in a Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS) for an average of two weeks. The liquid is then moved into tanks where it will sit for a time period, utilizing gravity to pull sediments and particles from the spirit. During this time of natural filtration, the flavors continue to blend. The alcohol is then tested for it's percentage and density. Once determined, we proof down with a water and sugar mixture to achieve the proof that is ultimately bottled.
I feel so lucky to know Francesco and Jonathan. They have introduced me to a whole new world of drinking - inspired by family history, hard work, and a passionate motivation to bring authentic flavors and processes from Italy to DC (and 40 other states). Don Ciccio & Figli spirits are made sourcing local ingredients when possible, and any unused ingredients are delivered to local bars and restaurants so that nothing is wasted. That makes my heart so happy! The excitement in Francesco's eyes when describing his products and his business fills me with happiness for him and motivates me to follow my dreams the same way he did. I am so proud of what the business has become and hope I have conveyed how amazing these products are. Stop by for a tasting every Saturday from 1-6pm and rub elbows with Francesco himself, and/or the extremely knowledgeable and delightful Jonathan. Being around the handsome duo is sure to put a smile on your face and inspire you to search your family recipes for something to share with the world! Thank you guys, Hangry Michelle loves you!
6031 Kansas Ave NW
Washington, DC 20011
OFFERING TOURS AND COMPLEMENTARY TASTINGS SATURDAYS 1 PM - 6 PM.
COCKTAILS ALSO AVAILABLE.