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Amari in Hillsboro Village

A new, hidden cocktail bar is worth seeking out on Belcourt Avenue.

Written By:  Chris Chamberlain

Photographers:  Danielle Atkins

For years, Corrado Savarino’s eponymous deli/bakery on Belcourt Avenue has been a favorite spot for friends to spend a long lunch munching on elaborate Italian sandwiches and enjoying authentic breads and pastries from Savarino’s oven.

Recently, Savarino closed the bakery portion of the business, explaining that he’s “getting too old to make everybody else’s bread.” The restaurant is in the middle of a transformation into more of a full-service eatery—and in the meantime, he’s converted the second floor into an inviting new speakeasy-like lounge called Amari, named after the Italian herbal liqueur.

There’s no password or secret knock required, but if you tell the host where you’re headed, what looks like an innocuous bookshelf will be folded back to reveal a hidden staircase. Upstairs, patrons are greeted with an attractive space filled with cozy booths and tables. Capacity is limited to about 55 so that each customer can receive proper attention from the bartenders and servers.

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Manning the bar is Wil Schultz, a talented mixologist who sees part of his job as educating the drinking public on some of the more esoteric cocktails and ingredients on the nicely curated menu. Take advantage of his knowledge to learn about the variety of amaris, absinthes, and high-end spirits available—he’ll likely suggest sampling a flight of amari to discover the nuances between varieties.

The cocktail menu is divided into sections like Fresh & Fruity, Boozy, Bubbles, and Mules. The Mules section includes more than your Moscow standard of vodka and ginger beer, offering a total of seven creative iterations with the bonus of a Thursday night special featuring $5 mules. Other cocktails range from the classic Botanist (a floral mix of gin and St-Germain) to the We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges (a chocolaty Mexican-style take on the Old Fashioned). In all, there are upward of 400 bottles of booze on the wall plus a decent selection of beers and wines.

Savarino says he has additional plans for his downstairs space, including a small wine bar. If a bigger crowd discovers what’s behind that secret entrance, he’d better make room for some more seating soon, too.

Amari, 2121 Belcourt Ave., 615-460-9878; amarinashville.com

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