2+ years ago O_o, we planned on doing a series of posts on amaro, which we are *ahem* picking up now. As we mentioned in our original post, we’re big fans of amaro. For those of you who don’t know, amaro is a type of Italian digestif liqueur. At Tales of the Cocktail, we learned that there are something like 1000+ amaros in Italy. As much as we’d like to, it is highly unlikely that we’d get through that many amaros, but we’d still like to highlight some of our favorites. This week, we’re looking at Averna.
Like much of what we have in our liquor cabinet, we came across Averna when someone used it in a cocktail that we really liked. Being the acquirers that we are, we had to have some. So we found out where to get it, bought some, and as they say the rest is history.
First off, we taste the Averna all on its lonesome.
- Nose: Hint of raisin on the front, followed by cola, root beer, birch beer, sassafras. Little bit of spice on the end, mostly cinnamon, along with an alcohol bite. Little bit of bitter gentian root on the finish as well.
- Palate: Bitter gentian and hints of raisin right on the front. Mid-palate is woody root flavors (similar to the nose), along with some orange notes. Finish is bitter and spicy with some aromatic wood notes.
Like most amaros, Averna is a nice mix of sweet and bitter. The Italians do like their bitter drinks! But of course here at Booze Nerds, we’re all about how can we mix with it. First up, a cocktail that we found after searching the internet for a bit.
Beatnik (Duggan McDonnell)
- 1 1/2 oz Averna
- 1 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz tawny port
- 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with an orange twist. Cheers!
- Nose: Birch and sassafras. Sweet black cherry. Little bit of orange. Little bit of caramel. Hint of spice and barrel wood.
- Palate: Sassafras, birch, and spice (cinnamon & clove) right at the front. Orange, black cherry and aromatic wood on the mid-palate. Darker herbal and earthy flavors along with oxidized wine on the finish. Nice big hit of spice on the aftertaste.
A very tasty cocktail, we could see ourselves downing several of these.
We then decided to make a drink of our own. We pulled several base spirits including grappa, pisco, American whiskey and cachaca. Interestingly, all of them made an interesting pairing with the Averna, which is rare in our experience. Normally, we have several duds and 1 or 2 winners when we are trying combinations. We decided to go with the grappa for our first effort, since you rarely find cocktails using grappa, given its unique flavor profile.
Turin or Bust
- 1 3/4 oz grappa (we used a moscato)
- 1 1/2 oz Averna
- 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash chocolate bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Enjoy!
- Nose: Strong grape must – slightly tannic, with a hint of vinegar – as well as sour orange and cola.
- Palate: Very nicely integrated. Grape must and chocolate on the front. Rich orange, bitter gentian, and a hint of floral notes on the mid-palate. Finish is grape spirit, chocolate, cola, and cinnamon/clove spice at the end and into the aftertaste. Overall a slightly sweeter drink than we normally make, but still quite pleasant. Very subtle rich orange undercurrent throughout the drink. Warm brandy notes on the finish as well and in the mid-palate as it warms up.
A full-bodied, nicely integrated cocktail in our opinions. We highly recommend it even if we say so ourselves ;).
Because the Averna worked so nicely with all the base spirits we experimented with, we decided to do another cocktail with it, this time with pisco.
- 1 1/2 oz pisco (We used the Encanto by Mr. Duggan, author of the Beatnik, above. We really enjoyed the floral notes that it brought. If you have a less floral pisco, a drop of rose water would not go amiss.)
- 1 1/2 oz Averna
- 1/3 oz mezcal
- 3 drops cardamom bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Cheers!
- Nose: Roses, smoke, cola, cardamom, and a hint of sage (which was very strong before icing), along with the slightly sour cactus notes that mezcal can have sometimes. Very interesting nose.
- Palate: Smoke, roses and a bit of petrol. Mid-palate is orange blossom with cactus, herbal sage brush, cola, and cardamom. Finish is once again smoke, roses and petrol. A very interesting juxtaposition of favors, but quite delicious.
Overall, we found the Averna to not only be quite tasty on it’s own (who doesn’t dream of wiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking Italian amaros), it also mixed quite nicely with several base spirits, thus making it a great choice to have in the bar. If you haven’t tried the Averna, or amaros in general, we highly recommend you run out and get some now. 😉 Until next time, keep on drinking!