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Mediterranean Magic: The Best Italian Cocktail Recipes

Italy has it all. The Mediterranean nation touts sparkling beaches, some of the best food culture on the planet, and is even shaped like a super-fashionable boot.

Some of the best Italy has to offer ends up in the glass, and we’re not just talking about Chianti and Pecorino. We’re talking about cocktails, amici. Thanks especially to a one-of-a-kind love and appreciation for amari, the Italians have some of the best and most distinctive mixed drinks out there.

Here are 11 Italian cocktails worth exploring.

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Averna Ritual

Averna Ritual in the glass.
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Sometimes, a great amaro in the glass is all you need, preferably with some complementary citrus or herbs. Here, you get to enjoy the many layers offered by Averna, the Sicilian classic invented in 1868.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Averna
  • Assortment of seasonal citrus zests (lemon, orange) and herbs (sage, mint, lavender, thyme, or rosemary)

Method: Pour Averna into a small tumbler or brandy snifter and add three ice cubes to the glass. Add lemon or orange zest and/or a seasonal herb, such as sage in the fall, rosemary in the winter, lavender in the spring or mint in the summer. Gently swirl the glass to blend the aromatics.

Paper Plane

Boozy Bourbon Paper Plane Cocktail.
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A modern classic that plays off of the age-old Last Word cocktail, the Paper Plane was devised in Chicago in 2007. It takes full advantage of Nonino, a wonderful amaro with bittersweet notes and hints of allspice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part bourbon
  • 1 part Amaro Nonino
  • 1 part Aperol
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice

Method: Pour all ingredients into tin and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Negroni Sbagliato

Negroni Sbagliato cocktail.
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An esteemed member of the Negroni family, this one swaps gin for ice-cold Prosecco. Here, we refer to Death and Co. for the specific method.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Prosecco
  • Garnish with orange wedge

Method: Pour vermouth and Campari into Highball glass and stir to combine. Fill glass with ice cubes, then pour in the Prosecco and quickly dip the barspoon into the glass to gently mix the wine with cocktail. Garnish with orange wedge.

Bellini

Bellini cocktail on table.
Three Points Kitchen / Flickr

An Italian staple out of Venice, the Bellini is great every month of the year. But they are particularly great when peaches are in season (or you have access to some of the good puree that’s been frozen since harvest).

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz Prosecco
  • 1 oz fresh peach puree

Method: Pour peach puree into flute and add the Prosecco. Gently stir to combine. 

Pirlo

prilo cocktail.
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Not to be confused with the Italian soccer legend with pinpoint passing ability, this Pirlo hails from Brescia. It’s another fairly simply drink that utilizes Campari and sparkling wine from the Franciacorta region of northern Italy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Campari
  • 3 parts Franciacorta (we suggest a Brut if sparkling is preferred, or a bright un-oaked white like Chardonnay or Lugana)
  • sparkling mineral water to top
  • lemon rind for garnish

Method: Combine Campari and wine in glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with lemon.

Americano

Americano cocktail.
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

You may be sensing a Campari theme here but there’s a reason for that. The bittersweet red nectar is versatile and does well with so, so many ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 4 oz seltzer
  • orange half wheel for garnish

Method: Combine Campari and vermouth in highball glass and add ice. Stir briefly and add seltzer. Garnish with orange. 

Cafe Amaretto

Cafe Amaretto cocktail.
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This one can be as simple as some amaretto and strong black coffee but we like what a little brandy and cinnamon bring to the table, especially during the chillier months. Remember to use freshly-brewed java, the warmer the better.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Amaretto
  • .5 oz brandy
  • 5 oz coffee
  • dusting of cinnamon
  • whipped cream for garnish

Method: Combine ingredients in a mug and stir. Dust with cinnamon and garnish with a touch of whip cream.

Amaro Manhattan

Amaro Manhattan cocktail.
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La dolce vita and the Big Apple dance as one in this fantastic cocktail that employs the nutty roundness of Cardamaro.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz Cardamaro
  • .5 oz Amaro Sfumato Rhubarbaro

Method: Combine all ingredients in cocktail glass and stir with ice. Garnish with cherry. 

Capo Sour

capo sour cocktail in a white background.
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In Italy, it’s commonplace to simply enjoy Vecchio del Capo straight out of the freezer, neat. While we love that approach, we also like it mixed up in a proper sour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Vecchio del Capo
  • .5 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 twist of lemon
  • orange slice for garnish

Method: Combine amaro and simple syrup in tumbler glass with ice. Add fresh lemon juice and egg white. Garnish with slice of orange.

Exit Strategy

old-fashioned.
Mathew Macquarrie / Unsplash

An Old Fashioned according to a savvy Italian, this Death & Co. drink treats amaro and brandy to a nice kick of citrus and some ocean-fresh salinity.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Amaro Nonino
  • .75 oz Germain-Robin Craft-Method Brandy
  • .25 oz Amaro Meletti
  • 6 drops salt solution*
  • orange twist for garnish

*Salt Solution: Combine three parts water with one part salt in storage container and stir until salt has dissolved. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 6 months. 

Method: Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Express orange twist over drink, then gently rub it around the rim of the glass and place it into the drink.

Hugo

Hugo cocktail in white background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Hailing from the Italian-Austrian border, this drink is full of simple pleasures. The marriage of mint, sparkling wine, elderflower, and aromatic gin will have you pining for spring—preferably abroad.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz Prosecco
  • 1 oz soda water
  • .75 oz elderflower cordial
  • .75 oz gin
  • ice
  • lime wedge and mint for garnish

Method: Gently bruise mint and place at base of glass. Add gin and elderflower and let sit for a minute. Fill glass with ice and add wine and soda water. Stir to combine and garnish with lime and mint.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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