We all know that Italy is the home of great history, culture, food, wine – the list goes on. But what about Italian cocktails?
Well, much like their significant contributions in other walks of life, Italy has provided its fair share of inspiration on the cocktail front, with dozens of classic and modern drinks that are enjoyed by people all over the world.
With this in mind, our guide will take a look at 15 of the best Italian cocktails that you need to try, whether you’re constructing them at home, or ordering a round in at a bar. We’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions related to Italian cocktails.
The first cocktail on our list is one of the most traditional Italian drinks – the Negroni. Made with an intriguing blend of equal parts campari, dry gin, and sweet vermouth, this high alcoholic drink has taken the cocktail world by storm over the past decade.
The Negroni was first created in Florence in 1920, and has since become a mainstay in cocktail bars all over the world. The appearance of the drink is a dark-red hue, almost sunset-like, so it provides a great opportunity to snap a great picture for Instagram!
In terms of the taste, the drink is both bitter and refreshing, so it’s a real experience for your tastebuds. To serve a Negroni correctly, stir the three ingredients together, before serving in a rocks glass over ice with a slice of orange.
The next cocktail that we’ll take a closer look at is the Bellini. This drink was created in Venice during the late 1930s, and has become a brunch mainstay due to its refreshing peachy-flavor.
Compared to many of the other cocktails on this list, the Bellini is light, refreshing, and perfect for a celebratory day-time drink.
The cocktail consists of fresh peach puree and Prosecco, and is served in a champagne flute with a slice of fresh peach. In traditional Italian culture, it’s common practice to marinate the peaches in wine before adding them to the glass.
Another classic Italian cocktail, the Aperol Spritz, also known as the Spritz Veneziano, is the perfect summer drink when you fancy a flavorful aperitif under the hot sun.
Made with Aperol, soda water, Prosecco, and garnished with an orange slice, the drink is best served in a large-bowled wine glass with some ice.
Much like the Negroni, this cocktail has a stunning sunset color, and provides a unique bittersweet flavor profile due to the bitter, orange-flavored spirit Aperol – it’s a must try!
This drink is a variation of the Bellini, swapping peach puree for pureed strawberries. The end result is a sweet, fruity, sour, and floral cocktail that’s ideal for an early summer drink.
The other main ingredient, Prosecco, is kept with the pureed strawberries, and served in a champagne flute with a sliced strawberry for garnish.
While a Rossini is usually enjoyed as a lunchtime beverage, it also makes a great dessert cocktail due to its fruity flavor and colorful appearance.
The ancestor of the Negroni, the Americano is a classic Italian cocktail that brings bitter and sweet together in a delicious, fizzy aperitif.
Created all the way back in the mid-1800s, the cocktail was originally known by the name Milano-Torino. However, once the drink became increasingly more popular amongst Americans, the cocktail took its new name.
To make the drink yourself, all you need to do is mix one part sweet vermouth, one part campari, and a dash of soda water in a highball glass with ice, and then garnish with a lemon slice.
The Pirlo shares many of the same ingredients and qualities as the Aperol Spritz, and gets its name from the way the Campari swirls through the white wine to the bottom of the glass.
The drink was invented in Brescia, and while it isn’t as popular as the Aperol Spritz, it’s definitely a good alternative to it’s more famous relative.
To put the drink together at home, pour the white wine into a balloon glass and then add your Campari so it swirls to the bottom of the glass. Then, add some fresh, large ice, and garnish with an orange slice or peel.
If you like the idea of a classic Negroni, but you’re not the biggest fan of gin, the Negroni Sbagliato might just be the perfect cocktail for you. It’s made with Campari, sweet vermouth, Prosecco, and garnished with an orange twist.
The exact origins of the cocktail aren’t well-known, however, it’s believed that it was the product of a bartender mistaking sparkling wine for gin. This offers an explanation regarding the name of the drink as “sbagliato” translates to “mistake”.
Needless to say, the bartender quickly realized how delicious his invention was and a new classic Italian cocktail was born.
Just like the Rossini, this cocktail is another take on the Bellini, substituting peach puree for mandarin juice. The drink was invented in Venice and is named after the composer of Madame Butterfly.
To make the perfect Puccini, squeeze some fresh mandarin juice through a sieve into a champagne flute. Then, add child Prosecco, and garnish with a mandarin wedge.
Unlike its ancestor, the Bellini, this cocktail is perfect for winter-time drinking due to the strong and sweet flavors of the drink.
While the Hugo was only invented in 2005 and is a relatively new cocktail compared to many of the others on the list, it’s growing increasingly more popular, so it’s definitely one to try if you’re ever in Italy.
It’s an extremely simple concoction made of only elderflower cordial, a dry sparkling wine like Prosecco, and a dash of soda water.
If you want to go one step further and perfect this cocktail, make sure you add ice, plenty of mint leaves, and a slice of lime. The refreshing nature of this herbaceous cocktail makes it one of the best alcoholic drinks to enjoy in both the spring and summer.
This cocktail is incredibly easy to make as all you need to do is mix the classic Italian lemon liqueur, Limoncello, with Prosecco and soda water.
If you want to add extra flavor to this delicious cocktail and give it a summery feel, you can infuse your limoncello with thyme sprigs.
This retro-style cocktail translates to “blue angel”, and is designed to reflect the blue waters that surround the country. The stunning blue color comes from the blue curacao, and the drink has become an Italian mainstay.
The exact origins of the Angelo Azzurro are unknown, but it’s widely believed that the drink was influenced by the Blue Lagoon cocktail of the 1950s and 60s.
If you want to make this cocktail at home, simply mix three ounces gin, half an ounce of blue curacao, and one and a half ounces of triple sec. Shake the three together, before straining into a martini glass with a lemon peel for garnish.
An Affogato is a culmination of everything to admire about Italian food and drink – a scoop of gelato, a splash of amaretto, and a shot of espresso.
However, if you want to give this classic dessert an added boost of real liquor, the Spiked Affogato features an ounce of rich, dark rum. Moreover, there are also variations that use whiskey or stout instead.
For the perfect presentation, the cocktail is served in a freezer-chilled saucer glass to keep the dessert-style drink as cold as possible.
The Garibaldi contains Campari and orange juice, with the end result a citrus, sweet, and bitter cocktail that’s perfect for drinking at sunset.
There’s also a modern day variation of the Garibaldi which incorporates rum and velvet falernum, and it’s just as delicious!
To construct the cocktail, fill a highball glass with ice, add the Campari and orange juice (stirring them together), and then garnish with an orange wedge.
Gin And IT
While this cocktail isn’t a classic Italian drink, the “IT” stands for Italy, so we thought we had to add it to the list!
The Gin and IT is a popular and delicious cocktail that was initially known as a sweet martini when it first appeared on the scene in New York during the 1800s. However, as the drink’s popularity continued to rise towards the end of the 19th century, its name was changed.
To make this drink, all you need to do is fill a rocks or martini glass with ice, add the vermouth and gin, stir, and then garnish with either an orange twist or cherry.
The final cocktail and our list, and by certainly no means the least, is the Sgroppino. This cocktail is another one that’s perfect for dessert, as it combines lemon sorbet, Prosecco, and vodka, to provide a sweet, creamy, and boozy drink.
The Sgroppino actually started as a palate cleanser due to its smooth flavor, but it’s now served as a popular full-size cocktail that’s ideal for sipping away on a hot summer’s day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Italian Cocktail Goes Best With Pasta?
This all depends on the specific pasta dish that you’re eating. For example, a penne dish with a cheese-based sauce works excellently with a Negroni, while a seafood spaghetti dish is complimented best by a cocktail similar to a Margarita.
Can You Drink Aperol On Its Own?
While Aperol is delicious when used in cocktails with a mixer, you can also drink the aperitif on its own. Aperol isn’t like other liquors which may be too strong or overpowering when consumed straight up, it’s a light drink which can be sipped without any harsh bite.
Is Aperol Spritz Actually Italian?
Yes, Aperol Spritz was created in Badua, and has become one of the most popular and famous cocktails to come from Italy. The cocktail is often described as an “Italian sunset in a glass”, and its popularity has spread throughout the world.
Are Campari And Aperol The Same?
While the two may share certain similarities like their dark-red color, there are a number of differences between the two liquors. Aperol is considerably sweeter than Campari, and contains hints of orange and floral flavors. On the other hand, Campari is a lot more bitter, and provides hints of berries, rhubarb, and a range of herbs.
Should A Negroni Be Shaken Or Stirred?
As is the case with all short, spirit-based drinks without any fruit juices to blend, Negronis don’t need to be shaken – stirring them is more than enough. In fact, shaking a Negroni will actually reduce the quality of the drink by altering its mouthfeel and dilution.
Is Negroni A Sweet Drink?
While a Negroni is primarily a bitter cocktail, the vermouth and orange garnish provide enough sweetness to make it a delicious, well-balanced drink.
What Exactly Is Red Vermouth?
The vast majority of vermouths contain somewhere between 16% and 18% ABV, compared to the 9% to 14% of most unfortified wines. A large number of spice ingredients are used in vermouths, with some of the most common including cinnamon, cloves, ginger, citrus peel, quinine, cardamom, marjoram, and chamomile.
Does Vermouth Go Bad?
Once opened, a bottle of dry vermouth can last for up to a month, so long as it’s stored in the fridge. On the other hand, opened bottles of sweet vermouth can last for two months.
Is Prosecco Italian?
Prosecco originates from Northeast Italy. More specifically, in a small region in the Veneto named Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The sparkling wine has now become one of the world’s most popular drinks, from fine dining restaurants to party celebrations.