Averna. The word reminds me of taverna. In my mind, there’s group of us lingering over coffee at the end of a long, particularly warm day early spring. We’re in a little town west of Palermo, in a caffe about a block from the ocean. It’s the season for alici, the little fresh anchovy fish that come in by the boatload, and are devoured at dinner.
Afterward, someone orders Averna, the Sicilian amaro, and we all sip from our tiny, stemmed glasses. A strong, dark liqueur, full of shadowy herbs, anise and other pungent, secret scents. Just what we need to settle down and relax before strolling back to the hotel – the way they’ve been doing it here ever since Averna amaro was first bottled in 1868.
Did this really happen? Did I see it in a movie? Did I dream it?
Anyhow, it’s what I pictured when I poured out my first sip of Averna after a meal this fall. I handed around glasses with a thimbleful of Averna in each, to dinner guests at home. Several had never tried it. A few refused it, a couple said they were leaving. I put the glasses in their hands anyhow. Everyone remained in their little groups, talking and sipping. Finally, they looked down at their glasses in surprise: the Averna was gone. Good night.
Becky Sue Epstein is a Contributing Editor for THE TASTING PANEL. Follow her work online at