The Aquinas Amaro Soda by Way of Safe Passage

According to Thomas Aquinas, drunkenness isn’t a mortal sin if your intention (and I’m paraphrasing here) isn’t to get plastered.  My friend Theresa calls this—in her own scholarly way—“accidental drunk.”  Which—per Thomas—is a “venial.”

For those who weren’t raised Catholic, I’ll quickly move this along.  Venial sin = not good.  Mortal sin = very, very bad.  So you can imagine the irony: me reading Thomas’s views on sobriety whilst drinking an Amaro cocktail.

Though I should come clean.  I’ve technically had one of these beverages four out of the last six nights.  They’re good.  The original hails from Kenaniah Bystrom, the bar manager of Essex, in Seattle.  (Which was inspired by a drink from Franny’s, in Brooklyn.)  Essex calls their cocktail, “Safe Passage.”  Here’s what you need to know. 

If you are going to have a lone intoxicant on a Monday night, best not to open a bottle of Prosecco, which is what Safe Passage originally called for. (This would not, in fact, be a “safe” “passage” for one.)  You are treading into mortal sin territory.  (Bubbles don't last.)

So I substituted club soda and the perfect light aperitif was born.  It has quickly become my go-to drink pre-dinner, or when trying to digest scholasticism.  It’s a perfect balance of salt, sweet, bitter, plus bubbles.  Which is everything I could ever ask for in a cocktail, plus hints of licorice, citrus, and vanilla delivered by way of liquid coral-colored sunset. 

As the name implies, it’s a safe passage for all.  So hey, Aquinas, make mine a double. 

The Aquinas Amaro Soda
Inspired by Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit's cocktail column in Food52


2 ounces Amaro (Nonino is my preference)
½ ounce Aperol
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce Castelvetrano olive brine
3 ounces club soda, cold
2 Castelvetano olives


In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the Amaro, Aperol, lemon juice, and olive brine.  Shake vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail glass (I love coupe glasses).  Pour in the club soda and garnish with olives.

Makes 1 cocktail

-I doubled the original amounts of Amaro, Aperol, olive brine, and lemon juice because it's so light in booze.  The recipe for the original is here.  Though I like this drink before food, it would be equally as good after—if you are in need of a digestif—given the Amaro.

-About that Amaro.  If you can’t find Nonino, others you could try include: Lucano, Montenegro, Zara, or Nardini (there’s a wealth out there).  Amaro is essentially a spirit made with roots, herbs, and flowers blended with citrus, combined with another alcohol (Nonino uses brandy), and sweetened with sugar. 

-The recipe calls for Castelvetano olives, and I can’t stress this enough.  They are fairly mellow and have soft vanilla notes which are really lovely in this cocktail.  I also used Fever-Tree club soda.

-Theresa, I do believe this drink is right up your alley.  Beware of accidental drunkenness.


  1. Oh, Aquinas. I had to go hunting for Summa Theologica at the library last week. Maybe it's a sign?

    But our booze cabinet at home is really poorly stocked. We've really been resisting buying anything but the essentials (scotch, bourbon, gin) and have left the cocktail-making to others. Maybe I'll just have to convince someone else to make me one. I'd be willing to find those olives. They and this drink sound very interesting.

  2. Ah, Aquinas! He's everywhere. ;) (Had another friend e-mail me to say he's been studying him too lately.) Let me know if you take this cocktail for a test drive. I'm not usually one for specialty cocktails at home either, but I do have to confess the Amaro bottle is now half gone. ;)

  3. I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

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