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Italian spirits at Bar Tre Dita

You Should Be Sipping These Italian Spirits

Tre Dita's Diane Corcoran talks amari, vermouth & grappa

Steeped in history and romantic as any Italian wine, The St. Regis Chicago Bar & Spirits Director Diane Corcoran delights in introducing guests to lesser-understood Italian spirits like amari, vermouth and grappa at Tre Dita and Bar Tre Dita.

“When most people think of Italy, they think of the fabulous food, fashion, scenic landscapes, and Italian wine, of course,” says Corcoran, “But amari, vermouth and grappa should be top of mind, too—the recipes for these have been passed down in Italian families for generations and drinking them is truly like drinking history.”

Tre Dita Bar and Spirits Director Diane CorcoranCorcoran has curated an exquisite selection of these spirits designed to complement Tre Dita’s breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline, river, and Lake Michigan. Guests can try these alongside an extensive Italian wine list and a menu featuring Chef Evan Funke’s renowned handmade pastas.

Here, learn why and how you should say “Saluti!” this summer with Italian spirits like amari, vermouth and grappa. 

Make a reservation at Tre Dita and Bar Tre Dita at The St. Regis Chicago.


Amari at Bar Tre DitaWHAT TO KNOW: It’s too bad that many people get turned off from amari after their first taste of fernet, Corcoran says, as “Bitter is an acquired taste!” Traditionally made with herbs, roots and various other botanicals, in Italy, every family has its own recipe for amari that is passed down for generations, which means each bottle of amaro can differ wildly from the next. With nearly 30 different amari at Bar Tre Dita, Corcoran says it’s worth exploring which ones are most pleasing to your palate.

TASTING TIPS: Amari are considered digestifs, or after-dinner drinks, perfect for sipping after a feast of Tre Dita’s authentic, handmade Tuscan pastas and namesake Bistecca all Fiorentina. Start with lighter, introductory amari like Amaro Montenegro, Amaro Nonino and Averna, then introduce your palate to more savory options like Cynar, Zucca or Rabarbaro, made from vegetables like artichoke and Chinese rhubarb. When you’re ready for a true amaro adventure, Corcoran brings out something fun and funky like Elisir Novosalus, which, she says with a laugh, is one of the “most bitter things I’ve ever tasted.” 

WHERE TO FIND IT ON TRE DITA’S MENU: Besides exploring amaro by the glass, this low-ABV liqueur adds a subtle flavor to several of Bar Tre Dita’s signature cocktails, including Il Tempo Vola, The Good Life, and the Dita (pictured below), a spin on a black Manhattan made with Sfumato Rabarbaro and Cynar 70. Amari are ideal for sipping along with steak, or Corcoran suggests ordering a pour of Donna Rosa Rabarbaro with Tre Dita’s Blood Orange Sorbetto for a flavorful after-dinner treat. 

Dita cocktail at Bar Tre Dita


Vermouth at Bar Tre DitaWHAT TO KNOW: Vermouth, a type of aromatized fortified wine, is made from grapes infused with roots, wormwood, herbs, citrus, and other botanicals, expanding its versatility. Commonly used in martinis and negronis, vermouth varies widely in flavor and hue, ranging from sweet, rosso, bianco to extra dry, and influenced by grape variety, fortification method, and other factors. Like amari, it has a lower alcohol content.

TASTING TIPS: Corcoran’s top advice for enjoying vermouth? “Keep it cold!” She suggests enjoying it on the rocks or enjoying a chilled pour served neat. Traditionally seen as an aperitif to stimulate appetite before a meal, Corcoran says vermouth is suitable for sipping any time. While it won’t spoil as quickly as wine once opened, it may lose its fizz after about 30 days, so no need to drink judiciously!

HOW TO ENJOY AT TRE DITA: Once guests are seated in Tre Dita’s dining room, Corcoran or her team will stop by to offer an “amuse vermouth”—tasting glasses of the spirit like Cucielo Vermouth Di Torino Bianco—to kick things off right. Elsewhere, enjoy vermouth in the Tre (pictured below), the house martini, a perfectly balanced combo of Piucinque Italian gin and Contratto Bianco Vermouth (a blend of Cortese and Chardonnay grapes), grappa and lemon. The white negroni-esque Blanco Bianco Amargo also features Mauro Vergano Bianco Vermouth.

Tre Martini Cocktail at Bar Tre Dita

Ready to add some vermouth to your home bar? Try the recipe for the Tre Martini.


Grappa at Bar Tre DitaWHAT TO KNOW: Grappa is a pomace brandy, which is made by distilling what’s left over from the winemaking process after pressing the grapes, including the skins, pulp, seeds and stems (aka “pomace”). As such, many Italian wineries use this byproduct to make their own grappas to eliminate overall waste, so the characteristics of the grapes used in the original wine shine through in the spirit, whether it’s moscato, gavi di gavi or merlot. 

TASTING TIPS: Grappa, typically served as a digestif, differs from amari and vermouth as it’s a higher-proof spirit. Corcoran says there’s a misconception that it’s overly boozy or sweet like a dessert wine, which is untrue, and encourages guests to try a one-ounce pour neat after a meal. Corcoran collaborated with Tre Dita Wine Director Kat Hawkins to offer grappas from wineries featured on the restaurant’s extensive list of over 700 exclusively Italian wines, allowing guests to enjoy grappa from the same producer as their dinner wine.

HOW TO ENJOY AT TRE DITA: The Tre fits the bill here again, with one of its three parts being Lorenzo Inga Gavi di Gavi grappa. One more insider tip: Though it’s not an official menu item, your server will know what you mean when you order as the Italians do, by requesting a Caffé Corretto—espresso with grappa added.  

Bar Tre Dita at The St. Regis Chicago

Learn more about Tre Dita, the first certified Tuscan restaurant in the U.S., and Bar Tre Dita, now open at The St. Regis Chicago.

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