Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Other Cocktails


red-hued Vertigo cocktail in a highball glass, garnished with a lemon and lime wheel / Tim Nusog

The Vertigo is a cocktail from San Francisco bartender Duggan McDonnell that skips a full-proof base spirit in favor of Averna, a member of the amaro category. The Italian word amaro translates to “bitter,” but the drink is a lot more multifaceted than its name suggests. It’s usually produced by macerating roots, herbs, bark, flowers and/or citrus peels in wine or neutral spirits, and then tweaked by adding sugar or aging in casks for more nuanced flavor.  

Averna dates back to 1868, when it was invented by Salvatore Averna in Sicily. It’s viscous and easy on the palate, which gives it lots of application in cocktails. It may be best know for its use in the Black Manhattan, a modern variation of the classic cocktail that subs in the amaro for sweet vermouth.

To make the Vertigo, McDonnell goes the opposite route from the all-spirits Black Manhattan and pairs Averna with lemon juice in a highball glass, topping the duo with cold ginger ale. The simple cocktail is bittersweet, tart and refreshing, tasting more complex than its three ingredients would suggest.

Amaro is traditionally consumed after a large meal to counter overindulgence, but you can drink it anytime the mood strikes. The Vertigo is no different. Sip one in the afternoon on a sunny patio and watch the world go by, or make a glass after dinner and let the one-two punch of amaro and ginger settle your stomach.


  • 2 ounces Averna amaro

  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 4 ounces ginger ale, chilled

  • Garnish: lemon wheel

  • Garnish: lime wheel


  1. Add the Averna and lemon juice to a highball glass filled with ice.

  2. Top with the ginger ale, then stir briefly and gently to combine.

  3. Garnish with a lemon wheel and lime wheel.