Spirits & Liqueurs Liqueur

Averna Amaro Review

This bittersweet amaro is complex yet approachable.

Averna amaro bottle
Image:

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

liquor.com rating:
4

Averna is a complex yet approachable amaro with just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness. Its sweet, spicy, and bitter flavors of lemon, bitter orange, star anise, pomegranate, and vanilla bean promise to please a variety of palates.

Fast Facts

Classification amaro

Company Gruppo Campari

Location Caltanissetta, Sicily

Released 1868

Proof 58 (29% ABV)

MSRP $27

Pros
  • Well-balanced sweet and bitter notes

  • It’s remarkably versatile in cocktails: Season-spanning, rich notes cozy up to whiskey and aged tequilas, while botanical notes pair well with certain gins.

  • Super refreshing in a highball but also perfect as intended, in aperitivo form—neat or over ice with a twist of citrus

Cons
  • Not for amari fans seeking the bitterest of the bitter

Tasting Notes

Color: Deep, concentrated mahogany-brown

Nose: Complex and thoroughly intriguing, the aromatics on Averna kick off with vanilla-laced licorice, then open up into a garden of herbs such as rosemary, mint, and sage. You’ll sense bright notes of citrus zest, too.

Palate: Mouthfilling and silky, Averna is both sweet and spicy from the minute it hits your tongue. A bitter orange and lemon zip hums alongside dark cocoa, tart pomegranate, star anise, vanilla bean, and cinnamon notes. 

Finish: The sweetness lingers, but it’s laced with a savory, bitter bite. 

Our Review

Averna is a classic for a reason: It was Sicily’s first licensed spirit. In 1868, a local monk gifted textile merchant, Don Salvatore Averna, with the recipe, which included botanicals sourced right from his abbey’s grounds. Averna began producing and bottling his namesake amaro, passing it down through his family for more than 150 years. The proprietary 60-ingredient recipe includes bitter orange and lemon (the signature citrus of the region), juniper, mint, rosemary, sage, myrtle, licorice, and pomegranate, which are infused with alcohol to draw out the right concentration of flavors. Today, the resulting amaro is ubiquitous in bars and households in southern Italy, and has become one of the country’s best-known amari exports. 

Some like to call Averna a gateway amaro—the one that first lures you into this herbaceous, bitter genre of liqueurs—but we’d argue that title goes to the sweeter, lighter Amaro Montenegro. Averna is darker, richer, and a bit more bitter. And it’s certainly complex, thanks to 60 herbs, roots, fruits, and spices. There’s a requisite liqueur sweetness, but it intertwines with sticky licorice, sage, and vanilla bean notes, as well as the sweet-tart, bright influence of pomegranate, giving Averna layers of flavor. 

Averna’s silky mouthfeel and distinct cola flavor profile are perfect over ice, sipped neat with a twist, or added to a highball. But the amaro’s bittersweet notes also make it the perfect addition to a Black Manhattan, where Averna replaces sweet vermouth for a darker and more intense rendition of the classic.

Interesting Fact

It’s fit for a king: The bottle’s fancy-looking emblem represents the royal coat of arms, which was bestowed upon the producer by Italy's second-to-last king, Vittorio Emanuele III. Although the monarchy was abolished in favor of a united Italian republic in 1946 the symbol still looks pretty cool on the bottle.

The Bottom Line

Averna works as both a stand-alone and mixable amaro, with plenty of intriguing flavors to play up and pair. Its balance of bitter and sweet flavors make it both complex and approachable, but hardcore amari fans might find it leans too much on the latter.