William Reed has long been a champion of local drinking at Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's, first for local beer, and now for local spirits.

But the former brewer has also always been a maker at heart.

So when he became fascinated with amari, the herbal Italian liqueurs like Fernet and Cynar that are now all the rage, he didn't need to travel far to begin making his own.

Just a few blocks north on Frankford Avenue, he found the perfect collaborator in Dean Browne at Rowhouse Spirits, who already has experience with herbal infusions like Bear Trap, a brassy, anise-forward improvement on Jägermeister.

For their project, Standard Amaro, Reed and Browne aimed for a darker, more brooding digestif, like Cynar -- and the two spirits share artichoke leaves as an ingredient. But there's so much more going on in this spirit, which is also infused with caramelized peach, gentian root, juniper and dandelions, bitter orange peel, and Pennsylvania cabernet distilled into the base spirit, that its layers reveal themselves with every sniff and sip.
The flavors shift in turns chocolatey and medicinal, with a mid-palate hint of smoke from the charred fruit and spice from the Dad's Hat rye barrels used for aging.
A final wave of darker sweetness, rounded by raw sugar caramel, calls for another sip. And it's quite drinkable at 64 proof.
Though the first batch released this week was very small, at just 60 bottles, Browne plans to keep producing more. Meanwhile, I can understand Reed's instinct to keep his amaro neat for sipping, and far from the dilution of any cocktail. This amaro is standard in name only.       

-- Craig LaBan

Standard Amaro, $40 a bottle at Rowhouse Spirits, 2430 Frankford Ave. 267-825-7332, rowhousespirits.us; $9 a pour at Standard Tap (901 N. 2nd St.) and Johnny Brenda's (1201 Frankford Ave.) 

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