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.
Delicious food and drinks go hand in hand in Italy. Especially if you decide to do some amazing wine tastings in Italy!
This post highlights the 24 most popular Italian beverages and drinks in Italy: from iconic Italian espresso coffee, traditional Italian brandy, famous Italian wines (Chianti wines, Castelli Romani wines, sparkling Prosecco, sweet Vin Santo), popular Italian beers, best Italian liquors (Amaro, Cynar, Nocino, Amaretto, Sambuca, Frangelico, Galliano..), to world-celebrated Italian cocktails (Aperol Spritz, Negroni, Bellini, Rossini, Garibaldi).
Here you can find out all about the best Italian aperitifs, best Italian digestives, top Italian non-alcoholic drinks, and top Italian alcoholic drinks.
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TRADITIONAL ITALIAN DRINKS
1. ITALIAN ESPRESSO – Iconic Italian coffee drink
When someone mentions Italy and the Italian drinks and beverages, the 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.
Iconic Chinati wines are some of the best Italian red 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!
3. 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 color and sweetness of Vin Santo depend 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.
4. CASTELLI ROMANI WINE
Rome has always been the top Italian destinations. After all, as the old saying goes: ‘all roads lead to Rome’?! But what to drink when in Rome?
Some of the most popular Italian wines come from Castelli Romani (Roman Castles) in the outskirts of Rome. The hillside location of 14 Castelli Romani villages provides the production of crispy and well-balanced wines. Castelli Romani wines are aromatic and with a strong fragrance. While dry white wines are mainly produced in Castelli Romani, the most famous Castelli Romani is the red Cesanese wine. Besides red Cesanese wine, some of the most popular Castelli Romani wines are white Frascati wine and sweet Cannellino dessert wine.
Therefore, when in Rome, grab a glass of Castelli Romani wine!
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 Frizzante (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.
6. ZABAIONE – sweet Italian beverage
If you thought that Zabaglione was only a dessert, you were wrong.
Zabaglione can be prepared as a beverage or dessert. It depends on the texture.
This sweet Italian beverage is made with egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine from Sicily (but sometimes also vin santo or passito).
Zabaglione, or also Zabaione, is traditionally savored with fruits and cookies at Christmastime.
Zabaglione originates from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. But, today Zabaglione is a classic Italian beverage that can be enjoyed throughout the country.
Grappa is a traditional Italian brandy and one of the most popular drinks in Italy.
This classic Italian alcoholic drink 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.
8. PERONI NASTRO AZURRO BIRRA
Italy is a famous wine destination as wine production and wine consumption in Italy has been in the tradition of the country for ages. But beer, or ‘birra‘ in Italian, is also among the most popular drinks in Italy. In fact, there’s historical evidence of beer production in ancient Rome. But the first ‘modern’ breweries in Italy opened in the 19th century and since then beer in Italy has been widely consumed. Beer in Italy is commonly enjoyed with pizza, while the most popular beer in Italy and the best-selling Italian beer in Italy and beyond is Peroni Nastro Azzurro produced in Rome. Nostro Azurro is a pale larger beer of strong yellow color.
9. BIRRA MORETTI
Another famous Italian beer is Birra Moretti. Authentic Moretti beer is originally brewed in Udine in Italy. But in the 1990s Heineken acquired the company and since it has been produced under the Heineken brand. Nevertheless, Birra Moretti is traditionally among the most popular Italian drinks in Italy. Moretti beer is a pale lager beer, light and refreshing, consumed as an ‘everyday beer’ accompanying various common Italian dishes.
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 in north-west Italy is the hometown of Campari. This world-famous liquor adorns aromatic bitter-sweet taste and dark red color. It is most commonly used for various cocktails.
Limoncello is a world-renewed Italian lemon-flavored 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?!
Want to try the first-class limoncello before heading to Italy? Try out Limoncello of Sorrento Marcati Gagliano!
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. Cynar is an Italian aperitif traditionally served before a meal in Italy.
Amaretto is a popular Italian sweet liquor made of bitter almonds. Originally it was exclusively 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).
Nocino is popular dark brown and walnuts-flavored 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. Nocino is a classic Italian digestive.
Colorless Sambuca is popular anise-flavored liquor from Italy.
Greece and Cyprus have ouzo, North Macedonia and Bulgaria have Mastika, the Levant has arak, but Italy has sambuca.
Traditionally sambuca is taken as a digestive and it is served after coffee to diminish the 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 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-colored 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.
Vermouth is a worldwide famous fortified wine from Italy 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. Vermouth is an Italian aperitif traditionally 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
20. APEROL SPRITZ
Aperol is another classic Italian drink. Orange-colored Aperol is similar to Campari, but with less alcohol and much less bitter taste. While Campari is digestive, Aperol is an aperitif.
Aperol spritz, a famous Italian cocktail made of Aperol, soda water, Prosecco wine with a slice of orange is particularly 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.
Recommended read: Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes
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 a 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.
Hope you enjoyed reading my list of best drinks from Italy. I also hope you have find your favorite Italian drink you want to try it on you trip to Italy!
Buon viaggio! E salute!