Liqueur- Averna Sambuca
Fratelli Averna,Venezia Italy
Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates L.L.C., New York, New York
PROOF: 84 (42%)
TYPE: Liqueur, Herbal, Star Anise, Spices
PRICE: $28.99 750ML
Note: There are a few different types of sambuca out there. The first is "Sambuca Agrumi" a mix of Star anise and citrus, second is "Stellato" a 100% star anise variety, and the third is Liquirizia which is a star anise and licorice mix.
Fratelli Averna dates back to 1868, and is much more well known here for their Amaro Bitters, than their sambuca, which is a recent import.
This was good news to me as I have a Pavlovian response to bad sambuca in the form of projectile vomiting. This is probably due in part on the adventure I embarked on in Boston with my administrative assistant (and personal Mephistopheles) during a conference in Boston. By 8 p.m., he was so drunk from sambuca he lost all control of his bladder while laughing too hard - he found this too was uproariously funny. . .this was merely the beginning of the evening with 9 hours to go. Needless to say my heart (and stomach) was filled with loathing for cheap sambuca ever since.
However, Averna is not this type! Made from Sicilian star anise, it thankfully smells and tastes quite a bit different.
First Impression: A interesting mix of star anise and and other spices - a more restrained and harmonious smell than most sambuca I've sampled.
Appearance: Clear as a bell clarity and and almost crystalline quality . On swirling, leaves la thick coating on the glass, then develops some legs.
Taste: Thick, almost almost jell-like body, paradoxically sweet with almost immediate dryness, with the licorice/minty tingling and coating of the tongue from the aniseed. Nicely oily coating almost viscous with the vapors of the anisette clinging to you.This stuff is the Altoids of Sambuca (I mean that in a positive way). None of the burn you get from the cheaper extracts and cheap alcohol versions out there.
Drinks: Work well in the usual drinks calling for sambuca, could also be used as a pastis substitute also. Louches (turns opalescent) well with water. Also a very nice digestive.
NOTE: If you are going to do the con mosche (literally "with flies"), where you use three coffee beans (representing Health, Wealth and Happiness) and set the drink alight, use a shot glass or a Pyrex glass (like a Bodum Glass) and don't let it burn too long- the glass could shatter or heat up and burn you, plus burned coffee beans tastes like the worst burned coffee you have ever had.
Also put the flame out before you drink! Do no be persuaded to do a Gas Chamber (where it is poured into your mouth and set fire by a friend-extingushed by closing your mouth) because if you screw up you could set yourself or bystanders on fire. If you are drunk enough to try this trick you are drunk enough to screw it up - badly.
Bottle: Cylindrical glass bottle with rounded shoulders and screw cap closure. Interesting graphics. Red front label (Liquirizia is more gold colored). Back label type is hard to read for anyone over 40 years old.
Final Thoughts: A much better sambuca than many out there. While not as complex as the other licorice version they produce -as a straight up version of sambuca I highly recommend it. Yes, it costs a bit more but worth it. (see my cost calculations in Cocktail Math)
Recommended as an alternative to the syrup others call "sambuca."
Other : This spirit is part of remarkable portfolio of the Domiane Select Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Collection along with the following spirits we have already reviewed Averna Sambuca Liquirizia , Averna Limoni , Castarède Selection Armagnac, Castarède VSOP Armagnac,Deaths Door Vodka , G Vine Floraison , G'Vine Nouaison , Rhum J.M Blanc , Rhum J.M. Gold ,Rhum J.M VSOP , Rhum J.M. Vieux ,Suprema Grappa along with others we have not yet reviewed but hope to in the future, given the quality of what we have already reviewed.
We applaud Domaine Select in spearheading a conscious decision to assemble a portfolio of artisanal spirits and to provide distribution and access to such a group of spirits to the trade and consumers. If only other companies did such a thing we would all be drinking in a better world.
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