Averna is a traditional bittersweet liqueur from Caltanissetta on Sicily island in Italy. As a member of the Amaro family, Averna gets its flavors from herbs, plants, roots, and spices. And just like most other Amari, it's commonly consumed as a digestif after a good meal: served on the rocks and garnished with a slice of orange.
Amaro is the Italian word for bitter and therefore describes the dominant feature of liqueurs from the Amari family. But Amaro Averna is more than just a bitter beverage. The many ingredients of herbs, plants, flowers, and spices combined with sugar make for a very complex and flavorful liqueur. And it's this complexity of Amari that makes them so popular in modern craft cocktails.
What is Amaro Averna?
Averna is a sweet herbal liqueur with a thick consistency and a slightly bitter taste. Its base consists of many different roots, herbs, and rinds of citrus fruits that are sweetened with caramel. A while back, Averna used to contain 32% ABV (64 proof), but recently, that got reduced to 29% ABV (58 proof).
Averna Amaro Siciliano is the full name of this Sicilian herbal liqueur. Named after Salvatore Averna, the liqueur first was produced in 1868. Salvatore Averna was born in Caltanissetta in 1802 and, after his teenage years, became an active and respected member of the community. He also was a benefactor of the local Abbey of the Holy Spirit.
In this Abbey, the monks produced an elixir made of various herbs and plants that they mainly used for medical purposes. In fact, during that time, most Benedictine Abbeys were following this tradition. And in 1859, a member of the Abbey gifted the secret recipe to Salvatore as a sign of gratitude.
Salvatore treated this legacy with respect and began to produce it for personal use in 1868. But at his time, he mainly served it to guests visiting his house. And it was his son Francesco who began to promote Amaro Averna publicly and eventually made it as famous as it is to this day.
What is Amaro Averna made of?
The recipe of Averna is a well-kept trade secret. Yet, as I mentioned, we know that list of ingredients consists of herbs, roots, and citrus rinds. And all these components are soaked in a base spirit to infuse it with their flavors and aromas. How long this procedure takes is unknown, but it must be quite some time considering how aromatic Averna is.
From a whole of 60 ingredients that go into Averna, only very few are known for sure. Among these are Pomegranate, Sicilian lemons, and bitter oranges.
The Taste of Averna
The consistency of Averna is quite thick, caused mainly by the addition of caramel to sweeten the liqueur. You can also taste these underlying caramel notes that make Averna sweeter than most Amari. Apart from the sweetness, Averna is quite complex in taste. It clearly carries notes of anise, chocolate, citrus fruits, licorice, gentian, myrtle, bitter oranges, juniper, and sage.
Overall, you can describe the taste of Averna as bittersweet with pronounced spicy notes. To experience the full flavor range of the liqueur, you can either drink it neat or on the rocks, garnished with a slice of orange.
Substituting Amaro Averna: If you need to replace Amaro Averna for making a cocktail or as a digestif, have a look at our list of Amaro Averna substitutes. Depending on the use case there are multiple Amaro liqueurs that can be used instead.
How to drink Averna
Amari in general are perfect digestivos. Presumably, the bittersweet herbal liqueurs help with digestion and are a common thing to order after or instead of a dessert. Amaro Averna is one of the more approachable Amari as it's a bit sweeter and less bitter than most others. The best way to enjoy it is on the rocks with a slice of orange. If the taste is too strong, adding a splash of club soda is also a way to enjoy the liqueur.
In modern craft mixology, Averna is also often used as an ingredient in cocktails. It's a perfect match for many aged spirits like Rum or Whiskey. But it also works great when combined with Mezcal. As an example, you can use it in a Mezcal Sour as the Amaro part. In this cocktail, the Amaro part creates a deep flavor profile in combination with the smoky taste of Mezcal.
Another way to incorporate Averna in cocktails is as the substitute for Aperol is an Averna Spritz, a twist on the classic Aperol Spritz. The strategy to replace the common Amaro also works for the Negroni or Paperplane cocktail.