Averna is an amaro, one of the charming Italian bitter liqueurs that are hugely popular with certain groups of people, and nearly unknown to others. Campari is the most popular amaro, and just this week, Campari purchased the Averna brand to include in their catalog of liqueurs.

Here’s a question I haven’t answered yet at Simple Cocktails: why bitter? Mrs. Simple Cocktails refers to bitter as a flavor “she tries to avoid,” yet amari are unique drinks as they can be served as both aperitifs and digestifs. An aperitif is meant to whet your appetite before dinner, and aperitifs are usually dry and bitter. Bitterness causes your tongue to salivate, effectively preparing your mouth to eat. A digestif is meant to finish your meal with both sweetness and aiding digestion. Because amari are bitter and sweet, they fit both definitions, and they’re a fun cocktail ingredient as well.

Amari can have a wide variety of dominant flavors, from vegetal (Cynar) to herbal (Fernet Branca) to citrusy (Aperol). Averna is a sweet cola-like experience, almost like root beer. It’s tasty combination of cherry and coffee, too, and actually leaves a little tingle on your tongue just like soda. It’s closest amaro comparison would be Fernet Branca, though it’s not minty and is much less bitter.

Averna is the most accessible amari that I’ve had yet, and it’s great on the rocks after dinner, or a shot in a glass of club soda makes a great, natural, old-timey “soda.” It’s earned a permanent place in my home bar.

Jack Daniel’s Rested Rye

jack daniel's rested rye

Jack Daniel’s is working quickly to get into the increasingly important rye whiskey game. Months back, they released an unaged limited-edition taste of their rye to retail, and now, it’s time for a rested version, 2 years in a barrel, still limited-edition, and still not a finished product. It’s an interesting way to ramp up a product which must age for several years before it’s finished, and it’s certainly a unique approach to marketing an aged spirit.

At $50 a bottle, Rested Rye is mostly a collector’s purchase, since it won’t be available long-term. I’m under the impression that 4 years is the goal for the final Jack Daniel’s Rye product, so this whiskey is young and brash, and everybody knows it. Other than the brashness, the flavor starts with a sweetness that’s particularly unique to Jack: like pancakes with maple syrup. The flavor ends up with a charred wood flavor that’s a touch bitter.

The rough edges of Rested Rye will be sorted out as the product ages, and I will say something I recall thinking when I tried the unaged version: this is a unique rye whiskey, particularly in the sweetness of the flavor. There’s no shortage of great ryes on the shelf, but having Jack in the game is still a very welcome addition.

Flaviar Tasting Kits

flaviar best of 2013

At Simple Cocktails, I get tot taste a lot of different liquors, but most of you don’t have the same opportunity. One option for trying a lots of different liquors (without going broke) is to subscribe to a tasting service like Flaviar.

Flaviar has developed tasting kits that you can either subscribe to or purchase individual packs. Monthly memberships are about $40, and individual tasting packs run $30-50. Each pack includes five 1 1/2 oz vials of liquor and instructions for tasting them. The packs are measured for 3 people to each have a taste, and the box includes a small instruction and tasting notes brochure.

I received Flaviar’s Best of 2013 pack, which includes Aviation Gin, High West Double Rye, Nikka Whisky from the Barrel, Gosling’s Family Reserve Rum, and Mascaro Ego XO Brandy. From what I can tell, the packs regularly include hard-to-find and high-quality liquors like these.

I think Flaviar is an interesting choice for tasting spirits without having to commit to a whole bottle (the Gosling’s Rum alone would run you $70). In Flaviar packs, you’ll taste a wider range of liquors than you would if you went to a store and bought a handful of miniatures anyways, and a tasting is a fun experience to have with guests at your home bar.


galliano harvey wallbanger

Galliano is a very unique, very….yellow….Italian liqueur that’s most famous as the central ingredient of the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail.

The liqueur itself is an herbal and vanilla tasting drink that’s pretty high in alcohol (for a liqueur), much like Chartreuse. This is not something you’d likely drink on it’s own, but in the cocktail below, it adds some great depth (otherwise it’d just be a Screwdriver). After sipping Galliano on its own, I realized that it would taste great with just a splash into 2 1/2 of gin, stirred and served like a martini.

Either way, this is a classic, tasty, great liqueur to have in your home bar.

Harvey Wallbanger

  • In a tall glass full of  ice, add:
  • 3 oz orange juice
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz Galliano
  • garnish with an orange slice
  • serve with a straw