Well, after filling our choiry bellies with Italian food for our big holiday bash, I became curious about just what that wacky Averna stuff really was. Luckily, we live in a world with Wikipedia.
First, here are some facts about the general class of liqueurs, known as Amaro, of which Averna is one type:
Amaro (meaning "bitter" in Italian) is a variety of Italian herbal liqueur, commonly drunk as an after-dinner digestif. It is usually bitter and sweet, sometimes syrupy, usually with an alcohol content between 16% and 35%. Amari are typically produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and/or citrus peels in alcohol, either neutral spirits or wine, mixing the filtrate with sugar syrup, and allowing the mixture to age in casks or in bottle.
Dozens of varieties are commercially produced, the most commonly available of which are Averna, Ramazzotti, Amaro Lucano, and Amaro Montenegro. Commercially produced Amari may contain "natural flavourings" and caramel coloring. A typical Amaro is flavoured with several (sometimes several dozen) herbs and roots. Some producers list the ingredients in some detail on the bottle label. Amari are typically flavored with some of the following: gentian, angelica, and cinchona (China), as well as lemon balm (melissa), Lemon verbena (cedrina), juniper, anise, fennel, zedoary, ginger, mint, thyme, sage, bay laurel, citrus peels, licorice, cinnamon, menthol, cardamom, saffron, rue (ruta), wormwood (assenzio), elder (sambuco), and centaurea minor.
So, now that we know that, here's some info about Amaro Averna:
Salvatore Averna was born into a well-off family of textile merchants in 1802. He grew up in the industrious city of Caltanissetta and became one of the most active members of the community; he was Judge Peace and benefactor of the Convent of St.Spirito’s Abbey. According to a very ancient tradition which originated in the fortified Benedictine abbeys, and afterwards spread all over Europe by Cistercian and Cluniac convents, the friars produced a herbal elixir following a secret recipe. Although the elixir tasted “bitter”, it was good and, according to the popular belief, it possessed some tonic and therapeutic quality. In 1854, as a token of gratitude, the friars decided to hand the recipe for the infusion over to Salvatore, and in 1868 he started the production for the Averna household guests.
So, there you have it gents. We're not gonna find out exactly what's in it cuz it's a secret! But will this young upstart replace Cynar as the official drink of the ILMC??