Saturday, November 13, 2010

What We're Drinking: Averna Amaro in Cocktails

Tuesdays with Mole Cocktail
In the west of Sicily, just outside the town of Caltanissetta, across the Salso river, and rolling golden hills is the Abbey of Santo Spirito.  Like the neighboring town that was first settled in 406 BC, the abbey is rich with history. For centuries the monks treasured a secret formula for their liqueur.  In 1854 the friars of the Benedictine Order that operated the abbey, awarded their "patrone" Salvatore Averna the secret recipe for their proprietary elixir - an herbal spirit that would become iconic Averna Amaro.

Don Averna, clearly knowing he had a real blessing on his hands, formed the Fratelli Averna in 1868 and began making Averna Amaro. Salvatore's son Francesco, however, is credited for expanding the brand in the early years and began distributing the award winning spirit throughout the continent.  Averna became Sicily's first licensed spirit. To this day, the company is still run by the Averna family.

Averna is distilled from a blend of flowers, herbs, dried fruits, citrus rinds, and licorice. After the key ingredients are soaked in neutral grain alcohol, then caramel is added. The resulting amaro has a complex but unique taste that is full bodied with a bitter sweet finish.

Typically, amari such as Averna were considered digestivi (digestives or after dinner drinks) in Italian culture. However, as the mixology renaissance continues and bartenders expand their palette of base and modifiers, amari are gaining renewed popularity.

One of my favorite cocktails that uses Averna Amaro was created by my friend Damon Dyer for the Averna cocktail competition held in Taormina, Sicily in 2008:
Tuesdays with Mole
by Damon Dyer
1oz Gosling's Black Seal rum (I used Cruzan Black Strap)
1 oz VSOP cognac (I used Remi Martin)
3/4 oz Averna Amaro
1/2 oz  lemon juice
1/2 oz demerara syrup
one egg white
Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole bitters

Damon's instructions: "Shake with large cubes, after 5 seconds, stop, and hand the shaker to the nearest attractive woman, let her shake it for another 10 seconds. Trust me. Strain into a coupe or footed sour glass. Drop 5-6 drops of Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole bitters on top of foam and run a thin straw through them."
Damon's commentary on the flavor profile: "The recipe specs are fairly straight ahead. The rum and cognac are spirits that play well together, while the lemon acts simply to separate the Averna's earthy complexity from its caramel sweetness. The egg white, meanwhile, softens any hard edges, and brings the amaro's aromas to the top"

I would add one modification to the above, dry shake the ingredients first and then add ice.
Where to get it: Clover Club in Brooklyn or Lani Kai in SoHo when Damon is rolling drinks and preferably on a Tuesday.

- Fredo

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