The ultimate list of popular drinks in Italy to enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ on your trip to Italy
POPULAR ITALIAN DRINKS IN ITALY
If you are traveling to Italy and if you are a gourmet like me, then popular Italian food and popular Italian drinks are unquestionably on your bucket list.
This post highlights 20 most popular Italian beverages and drinks in Italy: from iconic Italian espresso coffee, traditional Italian brandy, famous Italian wines, best Italian liquors, to world-celebrated Italian cocktails.
TRADITIONAL ITALIAN DRINKS
1. ITALIAN ESPRESSO
When someone mentions Italy and Italian drinks and beverages, first thought on everyone’s mind is most likely Italian espresso.
Espresso coffee is a synonym for Italy and the Italian way of life – ‘la dolce vita’ (the sweet life). If you are a coffee lover, a visit to Italy without sipping iconic Italian espresso, Italian macchiato, cappuccino, latte, or cortado is definitely no option for you.
2. CHIANTI WINE
Talking about drinks in Italy and not mentioning Italian wines is not possible.
Chianti wine is probably the most famous Italian red wine, while legendary Chianti Classico is the most famous among Chianti wines.
Chianti wine is produced in one of the most beautiful parts of Italy – in the Chianti region between Florence and Siena in central Tuscany. Black rooster seal marks every bottle of Chianti. This first-class dry wine has distinctive cherries and violets aroma and goes well with all tomato-based dishes (pasta dishes, meatballs ..).
Just to add, if you would like to visit the Chianti region, I would suggest taking a look at my Tuscany road trip. Exploring Tuscany by car, visiting the picturesque Tuscan countryside and charming medieval hilltop walled towns in Tuscany is one of the must-do things before you die!
If you travel to France there’s no doubt you would love to have a glass of French Champagne. But if you travel to Italy, most certainly you would love to have a glass of Italian Prosecco.
Prosecco is a famous Italian sparkling wine with a fruity and flowery aroma. There are three types of Prosecco wine: Prosecco Spumante (sparkling), Prosecco Frizz ante (semi-sparkling), and Prosecco Tranquillo (still). Prosecco wine is named after the village where it originates from – Prosecco village in the Veneto region, a village close to Treviso and Venice. But these days Prosecco is produced in a larger area in northeast Italy. In 2019 Prosecco hills received world heritage status by UNESCO. Prosecco wines match well-cured meats, fruits based appetizers (like prosciutto-wrapped melon or prosciutto-wrapped grissini), and crostini.
4. VIN SANTO
Vin Santo is a typical Italian sweet dessert wine.
It originates from Tuscany, but today Vin Santo is produced across Italy. Therefore, the colour and sweetness of Vin Santo depends on the region and the method of production. Vin Santo as a dessert wine is traditionally served with biscuits. But when in Tuscany, don’t forget to sample Vin Santo and Tuscan cantuccini biscuits.
Grappa is a traditional Italian brandy and one of the most popular drinks in Italy.
This classic Italian alcoholic beverage is produced as a byproduct of winemaking by distilling solid grapes remains – skins, stems, pulps, and seeds. It comes with a high percentage of alcohol (up to 70%). Traditionally grappa is served in Italy as a digestive after heavy meals. But Grappa can be also mixed with Prosecco what makes an excellent aperitif.
FAMOUS ITALIAN LIQUORS
Campari is the most popular Italian liquor made from aromatic herbs, plants and fruits.
Today this prestigious Italian liqueur is sold in more than 190 countries worldwide. Campari is accredited as a national drink of Italy. The city of Novara in the Piedmont region on the north-west Italy is hometown of Campari. This world-famous liquor adorns aromatic bitter-sweet taste and dark red colour. It is most commonly used for various cocktails.
Limoncello is a world-renewed Italian lemon flavoured liquor originating from southern Italy: the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast and the Sorrento Peninsula.
This classic sweet and citrusy in taste Italian liqueur is made by soaking lemon zests in neutral grain alcohol for months. Traditionally it is served chilled after dinner as a digestive. Hm, can you imagine yourself sipping refreshing authentic limoncello on a hot summer evening on the Amalfi Coast?!
Although amaro in Italian literally means ‘bitter’, Amaro liquor is actually bitter and sweet in taste.
This classic Italian liquor is made with grape brandy (grappa), herbs, and aromatics. Amaro contains from 15 to 40 % of alcohol on average. There are more than 50 brands of amaro liqueurs among which most popular are Ramazzotti, Montenegro, Sibila, Lucano, and Averna.
Famous Cynar is a bittersweet Italian liquor made from 13 herbs and plants, among which artichokes are the main flavoring ingredient. After all, it was named after Cynara Scolymus artichokes. Cynar blends well with soda or tonic and traditionally is an aperitif served before a meal.
Amaretto is popular Italian sweet liquor made of bitter almonds. Orginally it was excusevily made from almonds stones, but over time it got produced from peach stones and apricot stones as well. Italian Amaretto can be enjoyed alone, as an ingredient of many popular Italian cocktails of or added to some dishes (especially desserts like tiramisu), and to
Nocino is popular dark brown and walnuts-flavoured traditional Italian liquor originating from the city of Modena in the Emila-Romagna region in northern Italy.
This sweet and slightly bitter in taste liquor is made of fresh green unripe walnuts. The walnuts are first left in alcohol for some time and later removed while the syrup is added with juniper berries, coffee beans, vanilla beans, clove, lemon, or orange zest. Traditionally served as a digestive.
Colourless Sambuca is popular anise-flavoured liquor from Italy.
Greece and Cyprus have ouzo, North Macedonia and Bulgaria have Mastika, Levant has arak, but Italy has sambuca.
Traditionally sambuca is taken as a digestive and it is served after coffee to diminish coffee taste. Therefore, it is sometimes even added to coffee. If you want to try coffee with sambuca in Italy you should order ‘coffee coretto’ or ‘un caffe alla sambuca’.
If you like hazelnuts, then Frangelico is a liquor for you.
Frangelico is hazelnut-based and caramel-colored liquor from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. Frangelico is similar liquor to Amaretto. The main ingredients of Frangelico are hazelnuts, cocoa, coffee, and vanilla but dominant is hazelnut flavor. Frangelico is one of the nuttiest Italian liqueurs and the most expensive liqueurs on the market. Frangelico liquor was named after certain Fra Angelico, a Christian Franciscan friar who according to a legend created ‘original recipes for liqueurs’. That’s why even the Frangelico bottle symbolizes brown Franciscan habit.
Galliano is another yellowish and caramel-coloured liquor from Italy.
Popular anise-flavored but with dominant vanilla flavor liquor originating from the city of Livorno in the Tuscany region. Galliano is similar to Sambuca, another anise-flavored liquor, but the distinctive note of Galliano is vanilla flavor (not anise).
This famous Italian liquor, yellow in colour is sweet in taste, comes in a bottle with a shape of a classical Roman column. Traditionally Galliano is consumed as a digestive after meal.
Italian Vermouth is a worldwide famous fortified wine with a strong aroma. The strong flavor comes from herbs and spices used in Vermouth.
It originates from the city of Turin in northern Italy and traditionally it is served as an aperitif before a meal. Vermouth can be drunk alone or as an ingredient of cocktails or in cooking instead of white wine. A funny fact is, vermouth was originally used as a medicinal drink but later got popular as an aperitif. Surprised? After trying vermouth you will easily understand why it got so popular !
POPULAR ITALIAN COCKTAILS
16. APEROL SPRITZ
Aperol is another classic Italian drink. Orange coloured Aperol is similar to Campari, but with less alcohol and much less bitter taste. While Campari is digestive, Aperol is aperitif.
Aperol spritz, a cocktail made of Aperol, soda water, Prosecco wine with a slice of orange is very popular among Italians. Aperol and Aperol Spritz originate from the city of Padua in the Veneto region, but they are widely consumed throughout Italy especially during hot summer days.
Negroni is one of the most famous Italian cocktails. If you like gin-based cocktails, then Negroni is your best bet in Italy.
The main ingredients of Negroni are gin, Campari, vermouth, and a fresh orange peel. The cocktail was named after Count Camillo Negroni who asked to put gin instead of soda water into his glass of America-no cocktail. Apparently, the event took place in Caffe Casoni in Florence in 1919. Therefore, Florence is accredited as the birthplace of the Negroni cocktail. But if you are heading to Treviso, you should visit the Negroni Distillery in Treviso founded by Count Camillo in 1919 where bottles of legendary Antico Negroni have been produced
Bellini is famous peach-based Italian cocktail.
This highly sought-after Italian cocktail is made with Martini, sparkling Prosecco wine, syrup, and fresh sweet peaches. Bellini originally comes from Venice and the Veneto region. Can you imagine refreshing yourself with a glass of sweet Bellini on a hot summer night in Venice?!
Bellini comes with peaches, but Rossini comes with strawberries. Furthermore, Rossini is a popular Italian cocktail prepared with Prosseco and strawberries
So if you prefer strawberries to peaches, your choice most likely will be Rossini instead of peachy Bellini.
If you are more into oranges than into peaches, and strawberries, then Italy has a cocktail to meet your taste too!
Garibaldi is a classic orange-based Italian cocktail. It is prepared with fresh sweet Sicilian oranges, sugar cane syrup, and Campari. In fact, the Garibaldi cocktail holds a perfect mix of sweet Sicilian oranges and bitter Campari. This classic Italian cocktail is traditionally served traditionally as an aperitif before a meal.
I believe there’s no special need to note that the cocktail was named after famous Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.