Amaro Averna is one of the most popular Italian bitter digestifs on the market. Enjoyed most in Italy, since the 1990s it has found a growing appreciation worldwide, including in the U.S. Averna's recipe is made from a secret infusion of Mediterranean herbs, spices, and fruits. While the aromatic, bittersweet liqueur is commonly enjoyed on its own, it is making an appearance in a number of impressive modern cocktails.
Each brand of amaro is going to be completely different from all others because they're proprietary recipes. This makes Averna substitutions tricky and while there are viable alternatives, the drinks will not be quite the same. If you cannot find it or wish to try something similar to Averna, try Amaro Ramazzotti, Amaro Ciociaro, or Amaro Montenegro.
- Ingredients: Herbs, roots, spices, citrus, and other fruits
- Origin: Italy
- Taste: Bittersweet caramel, herbal, spiced, citrusy
- Serve: Straight, on the rocks, cocktails
What Is Averna Made From?
The liqueur known today as Averna was introduced during the early 1800s. It is said to be a creation of the Benedictine monks of Abbazia Di Santo Spirito in the northern part of Italy. In 1868, the recipe was gifted to Salvatore Averna. A textile merchant, Averna quickly took to producing the bitter. When his son Francesco took over after the turn of the century, the younger Averna proceeded to get the family spirit more attention and fame. Francesco's wife, Anna Maria took control of the company with her children during the 1920s and led the brand to even greater, worldwide fame. It worked and despite the chaos of the two world wars, Averna soon became a household name in Italy.
In 1958, the Fratelli Averna S.p.A. corporation was formed for the brand. This company was purchased by Gruppo Campari, which is headquartered in Milan, Italy, in 2014. Today, Averna is infused in Caltanissetta, Sicily and bottled at a Gruppo Campari factory.
Averna is a popular Italian bitter liqueur (classified as an amaro) that is still produced from the original 1868 recipe of natural ingredients. The herbs, roots, and citrus are allowed to infuse in the base liquor for two extended periods of time. What exactly is included in this herbal blend is a secret for the most part. Pomegranate and the essential oils of bitter lemons and oranges are included in the list. The infused spirit is blended with water and sugar to reach its bottling strength of 29 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 58 proof). That's a little lower than a previous version, which was 64 proof.
The label on every Averna bottle is quite interesting, filled with medallions, crests, and phrases in Italian. In 1912, Averna received the right to add the Italian royal coat of arms to its label in honor of its "Royal Household Patent" status. The label has changed a bit over the years, but one of the newer labels includes an Italian statement directly under "Amaro Siciliano" and above Salvatore Averna's signature. When roughly translated into English, it gives you a brief story of the liqueur: "Absolute Specialties—obtained from the infusion of selected natural plant aromatics. Comes from a secret recipe owned by the Averna family."
What Does Averna Taste Like?
Averna is dark brown, thick, and is best described as being bittersweet with an underlying caramel flavor. It is sweeter than many Amari and you will note hints of anise, citrus, juniper berries, myrtle, rosemary, and sage in the taste. These flavors may allude to more secret ingredients, though you can never be sure because some ingredients can mimic others.
Averna is a one-bottle brand, regularly producing just the signature liqueur. On rare occasions, special expressions are released.
Averna Riserva Don Salvatore was released in 2018 to celebrate the brand's 150th anniversary, this is an aged expression of Averna. Using the same recipe, it's rested for 18 months in oak casks, creating a richer liqueur accented with wood. The limited-edition release is bottled at 68 proof.
How to Drink Averna
The sweet herbal flavor of Averna makes it one of the most approachable in the class of amaro liqueurs from Italy. If you haven't tried a bitter Italian liqueur yet, this is a great place to begin. Amaros are designed to be enjoyed with dinner and, as a digestivo, Averna is an after-dinner drink. It can be drunk neat, though is most often served over ice. Adding a splash of soda and orange wedge is common as well; blood orange seems to be the best match. Fresh herbs, such as lavender, mint, and sage can be used as a garnish to enhance the experience.
Averna is also a good cocktail mixer. It can be the base liquor to create low-proof cocktails and it's a great companion for aged spirits, including brandy, rum, tequila, and whiskey. It is an excellent choice for recipes that simply list "amaro" or "Italian bitter" in the ingredient list.
Recipes that call for Averna specifically are not plentiful and they tend to maintain be very simple. In the Averna limonata, for instance, 2 ounces of Averna, 1 ounce of lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup are mixed with crushed ice then topped with club soda and garnished with mint, rosemary, or sage. The caffé tonic is an interesting drink that mixes 2 ounces each of Averna, cold brew coffee, and tonic water over crushed ice.