Italian Cocktails, Mocktails & Liqueurs

Italian cocktails and mocktails are frequently low alcohol content and often with a hint of bitter flavor. This is changing with globalization. Italian cocktails and mocktails are now beginning to take on an international flare and resemble those you’d see in the United States and elsewhere.

I far prefer the classic Italian cocktails and mocktails that Italians have been drinking for years, and that still are the favorites in Italy. My favorite by far is the Spritz cocktail: refreshing and light so you can drink as many as you like. The key ingredient is Aperol, one of the many Italian beverages with a hint of bitter flavor. Incredibly easy to make:

Aperol Spritz Cocktail

Aperol Spritz

Three parts Prosecco, or any bubbly dry white wine
Two parts Aperol
A splash of sparkling water
A slice of orange

Sicilian oranges

Aperol Spritz

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Ingredients

  • Three parts Prosecco or any bubbly dry white wine
  • Two parts Aperol
  • A splash of sparkling water
  • A slice of orange

Instructions

  1. Pour the Prosecco, Aperol and sparkling water over ice.

  2. Add a slice of orange and serve.

Serving Prosecco

Campari is the key ingredient in a few popular Italian cocktails. It’s great served on the rocks, or with soda water. Here are a few delicious Campari cocktails you might want to try:

Campari Orange

One part Campari
Two parts orange juice
A slice of orange

Campari Orange

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Ingredients

  • One part Campari
  • Two parts orange juice
  • A slice of orange

Instructions

  1. Pour the Campari and orange juice over ice.

  2. Add a slice of orange and serve.

Negroni – version 1

One part Campari
One part Cinzano Rosso
One part gin
A slice of orange

Negroni - version 1

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Ingredients

  • One part Campari
  • One part Cinzano Rosso
  • One part gin
  • A slice of orange

Instructions

  1. Pour the Campari, Cinzano Rosso and gin over ice.

  2. Stir, add a slice of orange and serve

The world famous Martini & Rossi company has been making cocktail beverages and ingredients for a century and a half. They give the name to what is probably the best known and most loved cocktail worldwide, the martini.

Here’s how the company describes their startup on their website: “MARTINI® captures the spark that set two men on a lifelong quest to make their stamp on Italian culture. Alessandro Martini – a spirited entrepreneur with a global vision – and Luigi Rossi – a creative muse whose botanical fragrances would lure noses along Turin’s via Dora Grossa… The year was 1863 when their newfound partnership was manifested in their first vermouth: The MARTINI® Rosso. This original blend remains the same to this day.”

Martini e Rossi offers a slightly different version of the Negroni which is equally delicious.

Negroni – version 2

One part Martini Rosso
One part Martini Bitter
One part Bombay Sapphire
A twist of orange peel

Negroni - version 2

Print

Ingredients

  • One part Martini Rosso
  • One part Martini Bitter
  • One part Bombay Sapphire
  • A twist of orange peel

Instructions

  1. Pour the Martini Rosso, Martini Bitter and Bombay Sapphire over ice.

  2. Stir, add a generous twist of orange peel, and serve.

There are a few bottled mocktails, or nonalcoholic beverages, I like to have on hand for non-alcoholic drinkers: Crodino, Gingerino and San Bitter Rosso & Bianco. They come in little bottles and are fabulous splashed over ice with a slice of orange. Again, all of these beverages, like most cocktails and mocktails, have a slightly bitter flavor that is the signature taste in so many Italian beverages.

Let’s not forget Italian liqueurs! There are absolutely dozens upon dozens of these, often homemade by  restaurateurs. Most Italian restaurants will offer you a liqueur, or digestivo (a beverage to help you digest your meal), following dinner. Once again the most common commercially produced liqueurs have a bitter flavor. Often you will simply be offered an amaro, or a bitter-flavored liqueur (amaro is the Italian word for bitter).

Another common digestivo is grappa. Grappa is made from the distilled grape skins and stems that remain following the wine-making process. When you travel around Italy to visit wineries and purchase wine you’ll see that every winemaker also produces his/her own grappa. Grappa is pure alcohol and is a wonderful way to end a meal!

Restaurant owners, and many individuals (myself included), make their own liqueurs. Italians take great pride in their liqueurs and love to show off what they’ve made. The most common of these are limoncello and arancello. A variety of berries, leaves, fruits and nuts are used to make all the many kinds of liqueurs.

Generally there are two steps to liqueur making. First, the liqueur ingredient (fruit, nut etc.) is steeped in pure alcohol for at least a month. During this time the alcohol leaches out all of the ingredient’s flavor and color. The second step is to prepare a syrup from sugar and water. Finally the alcohol and syrup are mixed together and then bottled. During the leaching process and after bottling the liqueur is always kept out of direct sunlight. After bottling the liqueur is best stored in the freezer so that it’s ice-cold when you serve it.

Right now I have three liqueurs in the making: bay leaf, orange and  Sardinian myrtle berry. All three are now ready to be added to syrup.

Bay leaf and orange liqueur in the making!

The culinary alcohol used for liqueur-making is 95º proof…a fiery bomb! Where do you buy it? In Italy you’ll find it right on the grocery store shelf because everyone makes their own liqueurs!

95º Culinary alcohol used to make liqueurs

You serve liqueurs in tiny glasses. I had some lovely hand-painted ceramic liqueur glasses made, but if you look around you can find all sorts of charming liqueur glasses.

 

 

Aperol Spritz Cocktail

 

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