Joe Stinchcomb is head bartender at Saint Leo, which restaurateur Emily Blount opened in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2016. It’s an Italian-focused neighborhood restaurant and bar, which lists a dozen amari on the reverse of its dessert menu. “People will say, ‘I don’t even know what this stuff is,’” Stinchcomb says. “You have to go through a spiel every time.” He doesn’t mind, though; explaining gives him a welcome opportunity to educate guests.
Stinchcomb created the Empire State of Mind as an on-ramp for those curious about amaro but not quite ready to sip it straight. For this cocktail, he prefers French calvados over American apple brandy for both the gentleness and sweetness. He also calls for High Wire’s Southern Amaro. “I love the black tea and clove that are in it,” he says. (If you can’t locate High Wire’s version, Stinchcomb suggests substituting the more widely available Meletti Amaro.)