If you’re in the mood to sample the best Italian alcoholic drinks (and let’s face it who isn’t?), then work your way through my list. I’m lucky enough to have done, in various beautiful spots dotted around the country!
Italy is a phenomenal country with a history that is unparalleled with most others in the world. From Roman emperors, Popes, genuine geniuses, inventors, painters, sculptures and so much more it seems as if Italy has given the world so much culture, intelligence and beauty throughout its existence.
Not only has it given us masterpieces but it has also given us some of the best wines and spirits and cocktail inventions and that is something not to be sniffed at (unless you’re wine tasting!). There’s so many wonderful drinks you could try that originated in Italy that I’ve put together this list of the very best Italian alcoholic drinks that you have to try.
Cheers and Saluti!
Which are the best Italian alcoholic drinks?
Whether it’s Rome or Sicily, you’ll be spoilt for choice anywhere you go in Italy when it comes to the best Italian alcoholic drinks to try. So why not try them all (just go slow!).
The world famous Chianti is a red wine produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany. It’s often made primarily from Sangiovese grapes, resulting in a wine with a range of flavours from cherry, balsamic vinegar, to smoky earthy notes.
I’m sure you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs in which Hannibal requests a Chianti, which has only made the wine even more infamous!
The Chianti Classico region has used an unmistakable black rooster symbol on the label since 1924 to promote the wines and to guarantee authenticity. Wine has been produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany for thousands of years but it was in the 14th century the first recorded use of the name ‘Chianti’ was used with reference to a wine region of Italy.
This is one of the best Italian alcoholic drinks to try if you haven’t yet (and again if you have!)
Barolo is a powerful red wine from the Piedmont region, made from Nebbiolo grapes. It’s known for its complex flavours of red fruit, roses, and tar. It is also often given the name of ‘King of Wines’ – the French won’t be best pleased!
Barolo pairs well with hearty dishes like braised meats and aged cheeses.
Prosecco is one of the most popular Italian drinks throughout the world. In fact, anyone feeling a bit Prosecco-d out?
Ever popular, Prosecco is a sparkling wine from the Veneto region, typically made from the Glera grape. It’s light, crisp, and often displays notes of green apple and floral aromas with a sweet taste. The Glera grape’s high acidity makes it a perfect choice for sparkling wine to toast all life occasions with!
A fun fact, Prosecco doesn’t improve with age like other wines so you’ll have to drink it within a year of bottling to make the best of its fruity and bubbly flavour.
Prosecco is usually served on its own but can also be used in cocktails like the Bellini (more on those later).
Limoncello is a lemon-flavoured liqueur made from the zest of Sorrento lemons. It originates from the Amalfi Coast and is known for its vibrant yellow colour and refreshing, citrusy taste.
This liqueur is made by using only four ingredients namely sugar, water, lemon peels, and grain alcohol.
It’s a tradition in Southern Italy to serve the chilled limoncello in a glass right after dinner and sometimes is offered free of cost in this setting.
It’s very strong, very citrusy and usually drunk neat (sipped I should say!). For a drink that will certainly wake up your taste buds then Limoncello is one of the best Italian alcoholic drinks to try.
Bright orange, bubbly, and very popular, Aperol is an aperitif with a bittersweet flavour that you really can’t miss! It’s a key ingredient in the delicious and inviting Aperol Spritz cocktail; it came out in 1919 and has low-ABV, it’s been very popular over the last few years.
Aperol is perfect to sip poolside or as a before dinner drink as it’s not too strong. Aperol’s flavour profile could be described as sweet and bitter oranges, tart rhubarb, and some secret herbs, roots, and spices. Tasty, refreshing and funky looking – summer bliss!
Aperol is also the brainchild of two Italian brothers — Luigi and Silvio Barbieri, who inherited their father Giuseppe’s liquor company in 1912 and took the world by storm.
Aperol Spritz is made by combining Aperol with Prosecco and soda water, garnished with an orange slice. It’s pretty easy to make yourself too! It absolutely is one of the best Italian alcoholic drinks to try and try again in the summer sunshine.
Attention grabbingly colourful, Campari is a bitter and herbal liqueur, known for its deep vibrant red colour. It has a complex flavour profile with notes of orange peel, herbs, and spices. Similar to Aperol but much more bitter and stronger – be warned if bitter drinks aren’t your thing!
Campari is a key ingredient in cocktails like the Negroni (with gin and sweet vermouth) and the Americano. You can also have Campari and soda or even Campari and white wine (I’m yet to try that one!) making it one of the more versatile suggestions on my best Italian alcoholic drinks list!
If you’re looking for a very strong, short drink then look no further than grappa. Grappa is a strong grape-based brandy made from the pomace (the skins, seeds, and stems left after winemaking) and is often served in small glasses as a digestif.
It can vary widely in flavour and intensity due to the fact it can be made with white or red grapes and can be aged in different types of wood barrels. The one thing that is for sure is that grappa is alway strong – generally 40% ABV.
Apparently, the first recorded instance of grappa being produced was in the state of Lombardy in northern Italy in the 1600s so if it has lasted this long then surely it must be one of the best alcoholic italian drinks to try!
8. Liquore Strega
It’s always great to try something new, exploring one’s palette taking up suggestions from others as to new experiences to be had. Liquore Strega is a bright yellow liqueur with a unique herbal flavour which was new to me but I am intrigued to try.
It includes ingredients such as saffron, mint, and fennel – sounds interesting! Strega is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks as a digestif, so let’s get that added to all of our best Italian alcoholic drinks to try.
The Negroni is a classic cocktail made with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari therefore it’s very easy to make. It’s not for the faint-hearted, just to let you know It has a bold and bitter flavour profile.
Fun fact, it’s Nigella Lawson’s favourite drink, surely that alone make it one of the best Italian alcoholic drinks to try! There are now many variations upon the gold-standard Negroni you can try but the original and classic is still the best.
The Negroni is typically served over ice and garnished with an orange peel.
It’s very strong, as I discovered with my friend when we went on a bike ride in Mantova, in Italy, and fell off our bikes. We had to pay some local lads to put the chains back on, as we weren’t quite in the right frame of mind to do it. All good fun.
You have been warned!
Lambrusco is a slightly sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region just north of Tuscany. It can range from dry to sweet, though the highest quality varieties are at the drier end of the spectrum. It’s best served chilled and is known for its fizzy character.
Lambrusco pairs well with cured meats, cheeses, and traditional Emilian dishes.
The Bellini was invented in the 1930s or 40s by Giuseppe Cipriani. Apparently, The cocktails’ pink colouring reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by Giovanni Bellini – and thus the drink was named!
This delectable cocktail is made with Prosecco and peach purée and is a delicious, bubbly, refreshing and sweet drink which is very simple to make yet so very good! One of my best Italian alcoholic drinks to try! It originated in Venice and is a popular choice during brunch or as an aperitif (or on holiday, or at a celebration, or… well anytime really)
Rossini is similar to the Bellini but made with Prosecco and strawberry purée instead, so you have another gorgeous variation to tickle your tastebuds with!
12. Vin Santo
Vin Santo is a sweet dessert wine, often made from dried grapes. It has a rich, honeyed flavour with notes of nuts and dried fruits.
It has been historically used in Catholic Masses and no one is quite sure how it got its name. Also, people often serve it with biscotti which in my opinion is another bonus!
Oozing with style and grace, the cocktails of choice for many adored film stars throughout the years, The Martini is a classic cocktail made with gin and dry vermouth. It is one of the most popular and most famous drinks in the world. It’s a cocktail that is synonymous with class, elegance and taste and of course James Bond’s favourite drink!
While not exclusive to Italy, trying it with Italian vermouth can provide a unique twist.
The Martini is typically served in a chilled glass and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It’s up to you whether it is ‘shaken not stirred’ though!
14. Liquore Amaretto
Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavoured liqueur. It has a rich and nutty taste with hints of vanilla and is often used in cocktails like the Amaretto Sour.
However, it is also often enjoyed neat, on the rocks. This is perfect for the sweet tooth patron!
Sambuca is an aniseed-flavoured liqueur that is often served as either a digestif or maybe more often as a shot in bars.
It has an unmistakable liquorice flavour which is very much a love it or hate it kind of taste! It is mainly served neat and is very strong, feel the burn as it goes down! It can be clear or have a blue tint and it’s sometimes set on fire before drinking.
Sambuca is commonly consumed straight or with three coffee beans, known as ‘con la mosca.’
READ MORE: 18 Things Italy Is Famous For
Whether it is rich red wines; light, bright, fizzy wines; strong, neat spirits; bitter cocktails; or sweet desert tipples there’s so many delicious varieties to try I’m sure you’ll be very merry whatever you choose. Somewhere amongst the list I’m sure you’ll find some of your own very best Italian alcoholic drinks to try and have lots of fun doing so!
Quicklist: best Italian alcoholic drinks to try
- Liquore Strega
- Vin Santo
- Liquore Amaretto
What’s the most popular alcoholic drink in Italy?
In Italy, the most popular alcoholic drink is arguably wine, with the country being one of the world’s largest wine producers. Italian wines, ranging from robust reds like Chianti and Barolo to crisp whites like Pinot Grigio and Prosecco, are integral to Italian dining culture. Each region boasts its own unique varieties and blends, making wine not just a drink but a reflection of the local culture and tradition.
What is the famous Italian cocktail?
When it comes to famous Italian cocktails, the Negroni is probably one of the most special. Originating in Florence, this classic cocktail is a blend of gin, vermouth rosso, and Campari, garnished with an orange peel. Its popularity has also led to various adaptations, but the classic version remains a beloved choice for many cocktail enthusiasts.
What is the best Italian aperitif drink?
Aperol Spritz is widely celebrated as the best Italian aperitif drink. Particularly popular in the summer months, this refreshing cocktail is a blend of Aperol, Prosecco, and a splash of soda water, often served over ice with a slice of orange.