Like their cuisine, wine and coffee are as much a part of Italian tradition and culture as arts, music, and fashion – and although we’ve come up with our top five, we could have easily done a top 500!
Of course, much has been discussed about Italian wines, and there aren’t many of us in Blighty who haven’t sampled a prosecco, Chianti, or Soave. Similarly, coffee has become as much of an institution here as tea used to be, so let’s look at some wonderful Italian drinks that we’re not so au fait with, and are great to sample when you’re next over there:
Like most Europeans, the Italians love their pre-dinner drinks, in fact, you could say the Italians invented the aperitif, with such a huge selection deriving from their shores: Martini; Cinzano; and Campari, just to name a few.
But one of our favourites is the lesser known Aperol – an aperitif that originated in 1919, which is made from bitter orange, rhubarb, herbs, and quina (also used in quinine).
Unlike its more internationally acclaimed companions, Aperol is a milder and less alcoholic version, and is usually served with prosecco as popular drink called Spritz.
But, as the official sponsor of the MOTO Grand Priz international circuit, and a recent partnership with Manchester United FC as their official spirit partner, we may be hearing a lot more about this little drink that could!
Like the aforementioned aperitifs, you’ll be surprised by how many cocktails started from humble beginnings in Italy.
The Negroni, a gin, campari and martini cocktail, originated in Florence circa 1919, and the Martini cocktail was created by an Italian immigrant at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel in 1910, but the most famous of all must be the Bellini.
The world famous combo of peach puree and bubbles started life in a Venice bar in 1934, and was popular with regulars like Ernest Hemmingway and Orson Welles, but now is enjoyed all around the world, as well as being an official drink of the International Bartenders Association.
Italy is also home to the liqueur, and the clear schnapps like Grappa, made from discarded bits of grapes, would have to be the most famous of all.
But add in some lemons, and you’ve got Limoncello, served cold, you’ll find one in every nonna’s fridge!
This drink is particularly popular around Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast, probably because of the predominance of lemons in the region, but it’s also becoming commercially successful as far away as the United States as wine makers recognise the benefits of using all the grape waste, and it’s super cheap and easy to make.
For something a bit different, check out Limoncello’s not so famous cousin, Cynar – an artichoke flavoured drink.
Sounds awful, but as the artichoke makes up just one of the 13 plants and herbs involved in this secret recipe, it’s actually quite pleasant!
At 33% proof it’s got quite a kick, so although it’s popular on the rocks, it’s usually served with a mixer of tonic water or orange juice.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself skiing in the Alps, one of the highlights of après ski life is the Italian winter favourite, the Bombardino.
This is the perfect combo of hot coffee, served with brandy, rum, or whisky, as well as the egg based liqueur, Advocaat. It lives up to its name, as it really is “The Bomb”!
The Italians have contributed so much to today’s society, thanks largely to the invading Romans, and we really have to thank them for the language, cuisine, arts, roads, music, and of course, their drinks – where would we be without them? Now, when life gives me lemons, I’m going to make Limoncello!
To really make the most out of visiting Italy and sampling these fabulous beverages, brush up on your language skills – check out your current Italian level here.