Drinks with… the globetrotting Daniyel Jones

Daniyel Jones
Daniyel Jones has the enviable gig as global brand ambassador for the House of Angostura.

Jones won the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge in 2013 — a great win for the homegrown Trinidadian — picking up the ambassador job as part of his prize, a role which he still holds.

We spoke to him after his first stop in Perth on a nationwide tour of Australia introducing Amaro di Angostura to bartenders everywhere; here he tells us about the experience of bringing amaro to the Italians, and just how important bartenders have been in spreading the love for their first entry into the amaro category.

As told to Sam Bygrave

What I love is experiencing drink cultures globally, and getting an opportunity to promote Amaro di Angostura — which is a new category for us — and seeing the bartenders appreciating it. Amaro has really picked up in the last five years in the US, UK and Australia as a category. Traditionally, it was always a digestive-oriented spirit, so to see the bartenders growing the craft and expanding the paradigm is great. Australia was one of the places I was looking forward to visiting because I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a cosmopolitan society, but I wasn’t sure of the cocktail culture, so getting an opportunity to see it in Perth was really exciting. It was amazing hospitality with of course amazing cocktails coming out.


For us it’s been a long journey, even conceptualising going into the amaro category. We’ve been the leader in the non-potable category for over 190 years, and we asked ourselves ‘what do we do next?’ And we decided to go into the potable category of amaro.

Amaro is an Italian word for bitter, and Italians refer to anything bitter as amaro. It took us seven years to finalise the recipe, because you have two spectrums of amari: you have bitter versus sweet. I remember going into Tales of the Cocktail in 2014 and it was the first time they had an amaro tasting room and I was excited. Two beautiful girls asked me: bitter or sweet? The room was divided into two, the bitter and the sweet side.

What bartenders are doing now is that they are using that bitter to sweet range in their cocktails to create different profiles, so you know you have the wild untamed Fernet Branca, to the sweeter side of Montenegro and even sweeter with Averna and Ramazotti, so it’s a spectrum you can play with.

An amaro is a liqueur, and they all have their own secret recipe; it’s not as extreme as Chartreuse, but you see bartenders getting an opportunity to explore and it’s mainly with the craft of cocktails.

At Mechanics Institute in Perth we had some great drinks – the Trini-Cano, which was created by our Australian ambassador James Irvine, a beautiful aperitif with sweet vermouth and Amaro di Angostura topped with soda and a nice wedge of orange; we had the Trini-Daddy, which is a twist on the Trinidad sour which was beautiful also; and we had the Trinidad Sour, Trinidad Daiquiris, and a Dark & Stormy with the Amaro di Angostura.

For the US launch, we made it very trade-focused and went directly and spoke with bartenders at bars, we had drinks, and we created signature serves like the Amor Amaro, the Amaroni and the Road to Manhattan. What we really wanted to see was the bartenders’ creativity with the product and give them an opportunity to showcase that.

In July [2015] at Tales of the Cocktail it won Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient, so we were truly excited to see that within such a short space of time that the appreciation grew so much. Then it won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and again at the World Spirits Competition. Right after that we had a huge demand in the European market and just over three months ago we launched in Europe. We launched in Milan, and it was such a sentimental, surreal feeling, entering into Italy and knowing this is the birthplace of the category [of amaro]. I was waiting on my colleague at the airport and went to get a coffee and I wasn’t expecting much of the barista. And as I walked in I saw people having coffee as if they were at the bar, and there were 11 amari to choose from — they were drinking it with their coffee. Some had it inside of it, some on the side, it was such a beautiful way to start.

We launched at something called the Aperitivo Festival in Milan. The Aperitivo Festival was strictly vermouths, amari, and they had the top 100 in the category — from Punt e Mes, Fernet Branca, Martini Rosso, Luxardo, Campari, you name it, these guys were there. But there were no cocktails — it was strictly enjoying it neat. And you had 5000 people coming for the two days. It was really a beautiful experience to see that.

And that brings me to one of the characteristics of what makes Amaro di Angostura so unique. I remember in Trinidad they gave me the product in an unmarked bottle and wanted to know what I thought about it. I said that I could only know when I’ve tasted the top 16 in that category. We designated a day, and a designated driver, and spent the day tasting amaro. To be honest, it was at that point where I got really excited about the product because I saw where we placed in that spectrum of bitter versus sweet.

I told them this: I wanted to see what the Italians would say about it. I said to my colleagues back at Angostura, it was validated by the Italians. Now, certain amaro within the category can only call it an amaro by governance if it contains a certain percentage of quina or rhubarb. Now in amaro you taste in the category, the top 16, any bitter notes that you get are going to be very herbaceous or vegetal-oriented, and that comes from the quina and rhubarb. Now Amaro di Angostura is the only amaro that contains the Angostura aromatic bitters inside of it, so it has such a strong spice orientation as opposed to the vegetal or herbaceous notes, and that is the uniqueness of Amaro di Angostura. The challenge is that we fit into the sweeter side of the spectrum but the spice orientation brings a beautiful balance to it, and this is what I experienced with the Italians.

Now you say amaro to an Italian and right away they expect bitter; seeing them smile when they taste ours, the consensus was that it’s different, and they like it, they like the difference.

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