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Averna Amaro Siciliano

By Robert Plotkin

One sign that we are evolving as a society is America's growing appreciation of things that taste bitter. A direct beneficiary of this trend is Averna Amaro Siciliano, an herbal liqueur famous worldwide for its delectably bitter flavor and prowess as a digestive and restorative. If you haven’t yet sampled this invigorating, centuries-old aperitif, you’re in for a treat.

Produced since 1868 by Fratelli Averna of Caltanissetta, Sicily, Averna Amaro is made according to a closely guarded recipe originated by the friars at nearby Convent of St. Spirito Abbey. The production process is an exacting one that involves macerating grape spirits with an all-natural array of flowers, roots, herbs, spices and dried citrus rinds. The liqueur is bottled at 32% alcohol by volume (64-proof).

Averna Amaro is a masterpiece. It has an opaque, dark brown appearance, a viscous body and captivating herbaceous bouquet comprised of fresh flora, anise and bitter orange notes. The surgically balanced palate presents a warm, bittersweet medley of herbal, spicy and earthy flavors, all of which persist throughout the long, satisfying finish.

While most often sipped neat or with a chill, Amaro is excellent served over ice, mixed with tonic water or used as an ingredient in cocktails to add a bitter component.

The Averna portfolio includes a pair of outstanding grappas. The Grappe di Vitigni di Sicilia is distilled from a blend of two white grape varietals—Grillo and Inzolia—while the Nero D'avola and Syrah is made from red grape varietals. All-natural Averna Limoni di Sicilia Liqueur, 54-proof, is made from fresh Sicilian lemons. The distillery also produces star anise-based Averna Sambuca (84-proof).