Italy is the home of great culture, history, and people. Italian food is second to none, and so are the country's fantastic wines. But, what about cocktails? It may surprise you to know that the Mediterranean boot boasts some truly fantastic cocktails. Here are some of the best Italian cocktails the country has to offer.
The Americano is a truly classic cocktail and was first served in Gaspare Campari’s bar in the 1860s. At this time though, the drink went by a different name, the Milano-Torino. It wasn’t until the 20th century, or so goes the story, when the cocktail grew in popularity with Americans, that the drink took its new name, the Americano.
The Americano is the perfect introduction to the world of classic Italian cocktails. This simple cocktail is a delightful, fizzy aperitif. Served in a highball glass, the Americano brings together Campari, sweet vermouth and a dash of soda water and is the original Italian cocktail spritz.
Pour into a highball glass and fill with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with orange twist.
One of the best Italian cocktails and one that has taken the world by storm in the past several years is the Negroni.
Camillo Negroni, this popular drink is a take on the Americano. Count Negroni developed a taste for hard liquor in America while working as a rodeo clown. Yes, a rodeo clown. When he returned to Italy, the lighter Americano was not to his taste. So, in an inspired move, the Count Ramped up the alcohol. He insisted that the bartender at his local substitute the soda water, typically found in an Americano for cold, hard gin. The Negroni is born.
The key to a great Negroni is to find a gin and vermouth pairing that compliment the Campari rounding out the flavors for that perfect cocktail. This is the ultimate aperitivo.
Add all the ingredients into a cocktail mixer. Stir until chilled. Single strain into rocks glass and fill with ice cubes. Garnish with orange twist.
For those with an aversion to gin or who just want to try the drink with a fancy twist, there is the Negroni Sbagliato, another of the best Italian cocktails.
The Negroni Sbagliato, invented in 1972, was the product of a bartenders mistake. Mirko Stocchetto, working at Bar Basso at the time, accidentally mixed in sparkling wine into a Negroni instead of gin. He quickly realized that the drink was fantastic and a new classic Italian cocktail was born.
Sbagliato means "mistake," and if you’re after a great tasting cocktail with the added punch of alcoholic fizz, then this is the cocktail for you.
Negroni Sbagliato Recipe
Combine Campari and sweet vermouth in a rocks glass with large ice. Top with prosecco to combine. Garnish with orange twist.
The Aperol spritz is another of the great classic Italian cocktails. Similar to the Americano, this drink uses Aperol in place of Campari. Aperol is orange in color, slightly sweeter and lower in alcohol. This makes it perfect for the summer months when you can enjoy the aperitivo in the day under the hot Italian sun.
Aperol Spritz Recipe
Fill a Tom Collins or balloon glass with prosecco. Add ice followed by Aperol. Top with soda water. Garnish with orange slice.
Born in Venice, the Bellini is a delicious classic Italian cocktail that makes use of fresh peaches.
The drink's origins lie in Cipriani’s love for the smell and flavor of fresh white peaches, a seasonal delicacy in the Veneto region. The barman spent many years trying to work out a way to incorporate the peach's incredible flavor into a drink. Eventually, he came up with the Bellini which saw him hand squeeze the fruit’s juice and combining it with sparkling wine.
Add the fresh peach puree to the champagne flute before topping with prosecco. Garnish with a slice of fresh peach.
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This is a take on the Belinni typically drunk at Christmas. It’s as simple as the Bellini in its ingredients, except it opts for strawberry puree over peach puree.
Add the fresh strawberry puree to the champagne flute before topping with prosecco. Garnish with a slice of fresh peach.
Time has obscured the origins of this drink, and little is known about exactly where it comes from. The story most people go with is that it is a take on the Blue Lagoon cocktail of the 1950s and 60s. It’s bright azure blue color informs the cocktails name which translates literally to “blue angel.” Careful though, this is one stiff drink
Angelo Azzurro Recipe
Add ingredients to cocktail shaker with large, fresh ice. Shake well. Double strain into martini glass. Garnish with fruit of your choice.
Not strictly an Italian cocktail, but named after the titular character in Francis Ford Coppolla’s eponymous film, The Godfather. So, we’ll take it.
Disarono claims that this simple mix of amaretto and whiskey was Marlon Brando’s favorite drink. And, with nobody around to discredit the claim, let’s just take it as true.
The Godfather Recipe
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail mixer. Fill with ice and stir gently until chilled. Single strain into a Rocks glass and top with ice. Serve with no garnish.
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Ordinarily drunk as an aperitivo, this cocktail, named after the famous Italian military general of the same name, is easily built. Although there is a modern-day variation which incorporates rum and velvet falernum, the original recipe is simple. It combines Italy’s signature liqueur Campari and fresh orange from the south of Italy. Essentially, it’s Campari and orange juice, but it’s great for supping at sunset.
The Garibaldi Recipe
Pour Campari into Tom Collins glass. Fill glass with ice. Top with Fresh Orange juice and a squeeze of blood orange. Garnish with a fresh slice of blood orange.
The Pirlo is a variation of the Aperol Spritz. It gets its name from the way the Campari swirls to through the white wine to the bottom of the glass.
The difference between an Aperol Spritz and a Pirlo is simple; it makes use of a different type of red liqueur and white wine. Typically the liqueur used is Cappelletti, and the white wine must be still.
Pour white wine into the balloon glass. Add cappelletti and watch it spiral down to the bottom of the glass. Add fresh, large ice. Garnish with an Orange peel.
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The Hugo is a deliciously simple drink that combines elderflower spritz. It combines elderflower cordial with a dry sparkling white wine and a dash of soda water. This drink’s fantastic, subtle flavors make it one best Italian cocktails to drink in the summer.
Fill glass with prosecco. Top with large, fresh ice. Add elderflower and top with soda water to combine. Garnish with half an orange wheel, a lime wedge, and fresh mint leaves.
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This, like the Rossini, is another winter-appropriate take on the Bellini. This time the cocktail substitutes the peach puree and strawberry puree for mandarin juice. In case you forgot, a mandarin is basically a small orange. They are typical of wintertime and are sweeter and stronger in flavor than their bigger cousin.
Squeeze fresh mandarin juice through a seize into a champagne glass. Slowly add chilled prosecco or a dry brut sparkling white wine equivalent. No garnish.
Again, the Gin and IT is not really an Italian cocktail. But, what do you think that “IT” stands for? That’s right, Italy! And, sweet vermouth, one of this stunning cocktail’s central ingredients, is an Italian creation.
Originally, the Gin and IT was known as a sweet martini and began life at the Hoffman House in New York. The late 1800s saw the drink’s popularity explode. And, over time the cocktails name change from sweet martini to Gin and Italian to finally, Gin and IT.
When prohibition hit the United States, the drink became popular in London. Eventually, it became a mainstay of many pubs with their patrons of gin loving Brits.
Gin & IT Recipe
Add gin, sweet vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters to a cocktail mixer. Fill with large, fresh ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into glass and fill with ice. Garnish orange twist.
These are some of the best Italian cocktails out there. So, if you’re looking for a true taste of Italy and wine is not your thing, seek out a cocktail bar. Italy has aplenty! Your bartender will know exactly what to do. And, remember, always drink responsibly. Cin-cin!