Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jan 10, 2013

Libation Education: Averna

It's a new year, and it's been ages since I've done a Libation Education, so time to learn something new, lushes!  Amari, or Italian bitter liqueurs are having a huge love fest in the US right now.  They can either be mixed in cocktails or sipped as a digestivo (either neat or on the rocks) after dinner.  There are a ton of different kinds of amari out there and I could easily do post after post on all the various kinds.  Campari is one of the more recognizable ones, but Averna is starting to catch up in terms of name recognition and popping up in a lot of cocktails.  Cynar is also another amaro that I've talked about on this site and that I simply adore.

It's unclear when this exact recipe was created, as various Cistercian and Cluniac friars were producing it as a therapeutic tonic throughout Europe.  Salvatore Averna, after whom this amaro is named, was a benefactor of the Convent of St. Spirito's Abbey in Sicily, and as a form of thanks, the friars bequeathed him with the recipe in 1859.  In 1868, he started producing it for his household guests (lucky guests).  His son Francesco really started promoting the liqueur at fairs around Italy, and it became pretty well-known around the country and was receiving royal awards by 1895.  In 1912, Vittorio Emanuele III bestowed it with the royal coat of arms and it became the official supplier of the Royal Household.

Averna is a combination of bitter roots, herbs and citrus rinds that is infused in alcohol, with caramel added afterwards.  Of course the recipe is a secret, but it does have a distinctive flavor when you stack it up against Campari and Cynar.  It's the sweetest out of the three, so if this is your first time hopping on the amaro bandwagon, this is a good one to start with.  If you're looking for a fairly simple cocktail to start making, try my twist on The Last Word by substituting Averna for the maraschino liqueur.  I call it the Italian's Last Word and it's perfect for any time of year.