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.