It is no secret that Italy has produced some of the best and most diverse dishes and beverages, many of which are enjoyed by millions of people all around the world.
And while we can all name many traditional dishes, and rave over some of their finest regional wines, many of us would perhaps struggle to list the many cocktails that have Italian roots.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore some of the most famous Italian cocktails that you might not have heard of!
First on our list, limoncello is perhaps the most famous Italian cocktail, and one that has a long history in the southern province of the Sorrentine Peninsula, as well as the Amalfi Coast.
While the true origin of the drink is disputed, many agree that its creation was some time in the early 1900s.
Despite this, the drink still remains incredibly popular to this day, enjoyed as a refreshing, after dinner palate cleanser.
2. The Negroni
A famous and popular drink that perhaps doesn’t get associated with Italy as much as it should, the Negroni is a staple of any cocktail menu worth its salt.
Often the source of experimentation, usually with different kinds of liquor (such as bourbon and tequila), the original Italian recipe has a gin base, and a signature citrus, fruity taste that is responsible for its continued popularity.
While not strictly Italian in origin, this is a fresh and exciting take on the classic Moscow Mule – a vodka based Russian cocktail that has seen its own share of experimentation and interpretation over the years.
While there are many different interpretations of the Italian Mule, they most commonly include Italian sparkling white wine, Italian liqueur, and limoncello, even going so far as to combine this with the vodka found in the original – although this is uncommon.
But however it is consumed, this remains true to the Russian heritage, providing a refreshing, subtle cocktail, albeit with the sparkling, citrus flavor that has become so associated with Italy’s southern coast.
While commonly a tequila based cocktail popular in Mexico and South America, the Paloma has seen plenty of interpretations over the years.
This version, the Italian Paloma, sees the traditional tequila/mezcal being combined with campari, and Italian orange soda, to create a refreshing and distinctive take on a classic summertime favorite.
While technically an island off the coast of Italy, Sicily shares a lot with the mainland in terms of culture, cuisine, and cocktails.
The Sicilian Sunset delivers a jolt of citrus, with lemon zest and orange juice base, and then packs a classic Italian punch with the sparkling white wine, topping it off with rich, fruity cranberry juice, which creates the distinctive red glow at the base of this beautiful sunset.
A drink with a long history in Italian culture, the Sgroppino is a much loved dessert cocktail, which combines zesty lemon sorbet with vodka and champagne, to create something refreshing, light, and very moreish.
In many ways, the Sgroppino represents the elegance, but also the fun of Italian culture, offering a distinctive, and indulgent concoction that feels perfectly at home amongst the sunkissed cliffs of the Amalfi Coast.
The Italian people have a long history with alcoholic liqueurs, and you will notice that many of their cocktails feature them in one form or another.
Campari is one such liqueur, providing a distinctly bitter taste that has earned it the tagline of ‘something of an acquired taste’.
However, when combined with the sparkling white wine, soda water, and heapings of ice, this beverage becomes something different entirely, offering a rich tasting, fruity refreshment for any pre dinner celebration.
Considered an aperitif, this drink was expertly designed to open up the palate ready for mealtime, teasing the senses and preparing you for the joys of fine, Italian cuisine.
8. The Bellini
A drink as simple as it is delicious, the Bellini is widely popular both in Italy and abroad, and offers a subtle yet refreshing take on traditional Mediterranean cocktails.
With only prosecco and peach puree, this cocktail goes to show that sometimes less is more, especially on those warm evenings with friends and loved ones, where the air is humid and true refreshment is in order.
There is something so distinctly Italian about this drink, yet at the same time, something completely alien, and whilst its counterparts might flaunt their complexity and multitude of flavors, the Bellini rests in the knowledge of its own elegance, taste, and style.
Amaretto is a cherry liqueur that is popular in both Italy and abroad. A common ingredient in certain kinds of cocktails, Amaretto offers a rich, often polarizing flavor palette that people either love or hate.
The Amaretto sour takes this distinct reputation, and combines it with the classic bourbon cocktail, the Whiskey Sour, a New York institution that boasts a playful mystique and a storied history in its own right.
Offering the perfect balance of sweet and sour, this drink has the sophistication of a Manhattan lounge bar, and the passionate extravagance of its Italian roots.
10. The Americano
A firm favorite around the world, the Americano takes red bitter liqueur, vermouth, and soda, to create a complex cocktail that leaves you wanting more.
Starting in the 1860s, Italian cocktail makers jumped on the trend of American cocktail making, and seeing the propensity towards vermouth and bitters, began labeling their own products as ‘vermouth Americano’.
This led to a continued trend in Italian bars, who began designing their own concoctions, taking the bittersweet flavors of classic vermouth cocktails, and giving it their own distinct twists. Thus, the Americano was born.
This one is a strange addition, but one that remains a popular choice both in Italy and abroad.
Pronounced ‘spal-yacht-oh’, this literally translates to ‘mistake’ in Italian and refers to a failed attempt at creating a Negroni – wherein the bartender reached for a bottle of spumante instead of gin.
Perhaps more strangely, the concoction worked, and the rest is history.
Nowadays, the drink is still served in the same bar it was created in during the 1980s – Bar Basso in Milan – where it remains a popular yet unusual choice amongst cocktail enthusiasts and locals alike.
12. Aperol Spritz
A drink that has grown in popularity in recent years, Aperol is another bittersweet liqueur, which when combined with prosecco and soda becomes something different entirely.
Once an Italian institution, but now a global sensation, the Aperol spritz has become wildly popular, and is now a staple of bars and clubs around the world – thanks to its light, fruity taste, its bittersweet flavor palette, and the attractive orange color that has become synonymous with the brand.
13. The Rossini
Like its progenitor, the Bellini, the Rossini takes a similarly subtle, minimalist approach, with a combination of champagne wine and strawberry nectar that sounds simple but tastes phenomenal.
But what really makes the Rossini a firm favorite, aside from the delicious strawberry taste, is the rich red color, which signifies everything new and vibrant about the Italian springtime for which it was designed.
14. Angelo Azzurro
Known as the ‘Blue Angel’, the Angelo Azzurro begins with a base of dry gin, combining that luxury white bitters, triple sec, and blue curacao to create something as heavenly as its name suggests.
Served with heapings of ice, and considered primarily a summer cocktail, the Angelo Azzurro remains a popular choice for both cocktail amateurs and veterans alike, thanks to its complex yet refreshing taste, and its attractive blue coloring, which is reminiscent of the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean sea.
15. The Garibaldi
Another simplistic yet flavorful cocktail is the Garibaldi. With only two ingredients, snobs and purists might consider this not a ‘proper cocktail’, however its long tradition in Italian culture, and its legions of fans around the world seem to say otherwise.
Containing Campari and orange juice, this is a light, refreshing summer beverage that will leave you wondering how something so simple could possibly be so good.
Originating in the province of Brescia, northern Italy, the Pirlo takes white wine (still) and campari to create something truly elegant, simplistic, and immensely flavorful.
Often served with seasonal citrus fruits over heapings of ice, what better way is there to beat the heat of the midday, Italian sun, than with one of these bad boys?
Considered an aperitif in Italy, this is the perfect pre dinner cocktail to open your palate, prime your senses, and set the right tone for the meal ahead of you.
17. The Hugo
If there is one thing Hugo represents, it is understatement and elegance.
Featuring elderflower concentrate, prosecco, and mint, this drink has taken Europe by storm, thanks to its refreshing taste, its simplistic appeal, and the tasteful appearance it wears so well.
Why not try one for yourself?
Named after the composer of Madame Butterfly, the Puccini is as delicious as it is distinctly Italian.
Popular in Venice and other regions of northern Italy, this cocktail incorporates fresh citrus fruits, mandarine Napoleon liqueur, and sparkling Prosecco to create something as innocent yet complex as Puccini’s operatic masterpiece.
19. The Bombardino
Considered the ultimate winter cocktail, the Bombardino is essentially the Italian take on eggnog, featuring a brandy/whiskey base, egg yolks, fresh cream, and sugar.
A wholesome, comforting drink perfect for the holidays, the Bombardino is a firm favorite amongst Italian families, both for its subtle alcohol content, and the sweet, satisfying flavor palette.
20. The Aperitini
Last on this list, but by no means least, the Aperitini is a fresh take on classic Italian liqueur-based cocktails, combining the classic Aperol with tequila, to create something completely different.
Fizzy (thanks to the prosecco), sharp (thanks to the tequila), and rich with the complexities of Italian liqueurs, this drink is as fun and playful as it is complicated, which perhaps goes some way to explain why it is so enduring and popular amongst enthusiasts and amateurs alike.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about some of Italy’s most famous cocktails.
One thing that can be noted about Italy is the sheer impact the country has had on food, beverages, culture, and the way we enjoy and consume the meals we enjoy.
Why not try some of these for yourself? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!