Mister Bitter

Ausano Ramazzotti

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Amaro. The word means “bitter” in Italian. But it is also the name of a classic Italian herbal liqueur. Frequently consumed after dinner to aid digestion, amaro is a mixture herbs, roots and alcohol with a bitter character that is also imbibed as a tonic and as a feature ingredient in a long drink.
The history of the amaro goes back to Roman times. Archaeologists have found traces of herb-infused wines, which were primarily prepared for their medical virtues. The Roman aristocracy—seekers of luxurious and exotic pleasures—were fond of blending rare and precious herbs into wine, which they believed had supernatural powers.
During the Middle Ages, monks and alchemists replaced the wine with alcohol in these herbal recipes, which were administered as medicinal remedies. In the course of the centuries, these formulas become very popular with the nobility, who called them liquores. The traditional liquore recipes changed little until a 24-year-old chemist from Milan named Ausano Ramazzotti developed a fortifying liqueur, which became one of the world’s famous amaros or bitters.


It is 1815. Ausano Ramazzotti owns an herbalist shop located near the Arena in Milan. He also sells wines and spirits. It is a tiny shop with an equally tiny laboratory.
But it is in that shop that Ramazzotti made the most of his extensive knowledge of curative plants and alcohols. He tests various recipes, trying to create an amaro with an attentuated bitterness that could potentially please a broader audience.
Orange peel, Chinese star anise, Angelica root, Quinine, Rose petals, Vanilla…in the end, he perfected a harmonious mixture of 33 ingredients. Ausano named his amaro, the Amaro Festina Ramazzotti.


Success came quickly. Ramazzotti’s customers so appreciated this particular taste as well as its tonic and digestive properties that he earned a great reputation throughout the city.
It was during this time that the first cafés opened in Milan. They were the gathering places where most people met with friends over a good cup of coffee to discuss music or literature, best avoiding politics of the local or the national kind.
It is 1848. Ausano Ramazzotti has a delightful inspiration. He opens an establishment, near La Scala theatre, where his customers could savour amaro Ramazzotti instead of coffee. For him, it is the ideal way to promote his amaro and win over new customers every day. His inspiration paid off. Amaro Ramazzotti becomes the favourite amaro throughout Italy.


It is 1866. Ausano Ramazzotti dies. He is 75 years old. Within 50 years, his Amaro Ramazzotti transformed his little herbal shop into modern, commercial production company which employed about a hundred workers.
His heirs left the original small store and transferred production to a larger plant on Via Canonica, increasing case output to meet a growing demand. The familiar blue and red tab bottles remain quasi unchanged to this day.
In 1900, the Ramazzotti children further improved production, applying state-of-the-art techniques. And with the exception of the First World War, these are happy years filled with progress and expansion. These are also the years which see the birth of modern-day advertising.


The history of Ramazzotti is profoundly linked to the history of Italian advertising. Renowned illustrators, the first big names in Italian advertising art—Cappiello, Seneca, Dudovich, Boccasile—created the famous Ramazzotti posters, which today are found in numerous museums and private collections.
But it is especially the famous slogan from 1934 that is synonymous with the brand’s success. “Ramazzotti fa sempre bene " [Ramazzotti is always good for you] was emblazoned on the company’s poster campaigns and entered the Italian collective consciousness even to this day.
Almost 200 years after Ausano Ramazzotti first conducted his experiments, Amaro Ramazzotti is a drink produced in millions of litres per year that is appreciated throughout the world.

3 links to go further

Amaro felsina Ramazzotti, on Practically Edible
Amaro felsina Ramazzotti, on Practically Edible

Amaro Felsina Ramazzotti is a reddish-brown digestive bitter. It is mid-range un bitterness of the italian bitters, and relatively smooth. It has a sweet medicinal taste with notes of orange and vanilla.

Amaro, on Wikipedia
Amaro, on Wikipedia

Amaro is a variety of Italian herbal liqueur, commonly drunk as an after-dinner digestif. Amari are typically produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and/or citrus peels in alcohol, either neutral spirits or wine, mixing the filtrate with sugar syrup, and allowing the mixture to age in casks or in bottle.

Ramazotti, on Pernod Ricard Italia
Ramazotti, on Pernod Ricard Italia

In 1815, Ausano Ramazzotti, a herbal doctor, created in his shop in Milan, a tonic liqueur made from herbs and spices including gentian root, rhubarb, cinnamon and the peel from Sicilian oranges.


Story : Eric Drier
Art Direction & animation :
Jérôme Gonçalvès
Sound design : Greg Corsaro
Narration : Antony Hickling

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