Top 10 Italian Liquors
You tend to think of Coliseum, amphitheaters, cathedrals, pizzas, and trendy apparels, when you envisage about Italy. However, spirit connoisseurs would definitely give rave reviews on Italy’s wines that have won several international awards. Ask any wine enthusiast or aficionado, and he will surely rattle off names of Italian wines that read like a who’s who list.
Liquor enthusiasts would definitely include the amarone, chianti, campari, maraschino, and sambuca whenever they draw up a list of Italy’s top 10 liquors. The most venerated and celebrated of Italian liquors have a glorious past dating back to several hundreds of years. Most of the world-class liquors of Italy can compete with some of the major liquor brands around the world.
The liquors come in perfectly handy as post dinner drinks or pre meal aperitifs. Italian liquors have an inextricable connection with the nation’s cultural traditions and cuisines. Still to this day, Italians brew various types of liquors in their abodes but is the large breweries that cater to the bulk of national demand.
The task of choosing the top 10 liquors of Italy is undoubtedly a daunting task. However, we’ve made an earnest attempt to do the same.
Galliano can vie with the premium Italian liquors like Campari and Amaro for being accorded the tag of ‘best Italian liquor’. The spirit has a distinctive sweet taste comes from its unique mix of spices and herbs. The judicious blend of vanilla pods, juniper extracts, yarrow, and anise imbibes Galliano with a smooth and sweet tanginess.
Several other spices and herbs ingrained in the liquor transfer to the liquor its exclusive tastes and flavors. Those who do not find the vanilla flavoring to their liking, can opt for the amaro, ristretto, and amaretto variants. All in all, the Galliano makes for a wonderful and eclectic cocktail drink to be relished with a wide variety of foods.
Campari is another of Italy’s popular liquors that comes in perfectly handy as a cocktail mixer. Of course, there are almost innumerable different ways in which you can enjoy Campari, identified by its scarlet red color. However, if you wish to drink the liquor like most Italians do, then savor it as an aperitif by adding soda.
You know that you’ve hit the sweet spot when you discern the robust bittersweet, herbal zest. Wedging a dash of orange peel on the edge of the glass will bring out Campari’s full range of flavors. Majority of connoisseurs believe that the liquor’s unique flavor comes from the Chinotto orange that thrives in Southern Italy and cascarilla.
The liquor shares its name with Gaspare Campari who first distilled the spirit in Novara in 1860.
The Fernet Branca is grouped under the myriad of amaro (the Italian term for bitter) liquors. Compared to the majority of amaro drinks, Fernet Branca is relatively young as it was first fermented 165 years ago. However, most drinkers have been at their wits ‘end in describing the entire range of Fernet Branca’s tangs.
Some have found the liquor to have a repulsive odor while others have eulogized its classic range of flavors. However, it is pleasantly surprising to note that the liquor has a good following in numerous countries, especially Germany and Argentina. Fernet Branca has a thick syrupy and dark texture and tastes caustic and bitter. The liquor originally served as a prophylactic drink in Milan and till to this day, nobody knows its recipe.
The Fernet Branca best serves as digestive aperitif after you’ve relished a sumptuous spread.
The globally renowned ‘Amaretto’ has been around since 1525 and therefore one of the select Italian liquors with deep-rooted legacy. Amaretto is a honey hued, almond-flavored spirit whose origins can be traced to a city in Lombardy, Northern Italy-Saronno. According to a fable, one of the models who posed for one of Leonardo da Vinci’s students presented the drink to the latter.
To prepare the liquor, she fermented a few apricots using brandy and gifted the concoction to the student. Fine-tuning the fermentation process imparted a robust punch to the drink, eventually leading to the fruition of Amaretto. Amaretto is famous worldwide as a cocktail drink of choice and routinely used by Italians to flavor a range of cuisines, pastries, and gelatos.
Grappa which is the Scottish equivalent of whiskey kept the medieval tillers in high spirits during the cold winter nights. The liquor was distilled using the pulpy extract of fruits left as a residue of the wine-fermentation technique. Owing to its high alcohol proportion, Grappa tastes bitter and a couple of pegs could make you tipsy.
To relish the subtle caramel flavors, you should sip Grappa slowly, and if you wish to appreciate the drink like the Italians, add a shot to espresso after dinner.
Maraschino is one of the classic liquors of Italy brewed for the first time in the 1700s in Venice. The drink is obtained by meticulously distilling fully ripe cherries, and extensively for cocktailing drinks and flavoring desserts. The black cherries used for producing the liquor are sourced from Dalmatia, a coastal region in Croatia. Special pot stills made from copper are used for distilling the exquisite Marasca cherries which produces the drink with a medley of flavors.
Sambuca is one of Italy’s iconic alcoholic spirits distilled by the illustrious Molinari family of brewers. The colorless and clear texture of Sambuca resembles the vodka in appearance and taste. Initially, the liquor tastes sweet on the palate, and drinking it neat leaves you intoxicated a little too soon. Extracts of green and star anise oils, elderflowers, and other plant ingredients are used for preparing sambuca.
You can savor three distinct variations of Sambuca-white, black, and red-but the white variant is the most popular.
Anisette, as its name clearly indicates, is distilled from the extracts of aniseed plants. The liquor is remarkably sweet on the palate, and it is best had with plain water. For best results, transfer the entire content of a bottle into a decanter containing extremely cold water.
If the resulting concoction has an intensely white texture, you know that you’ve used Anisette of premium quality.
The bottle in which Frangelico is decanted and preserved has an exclusive shape-it looks a tad like a Franciscan friar. Frangelico is produced in Canale, Italy from hazelnuts and liqueur flavored with herbs and available in 350ml and 750ml bottles. You can savor Frangelico on the rocks (with ice) or add soda water as well as cocktail it with Frangelico Colada and Hazelnut Martini.
Martini went global when Ian Fleming’s James Bond started sipping the cocktail version shaken but not stirred. The liquor shares its name with the cocktails concocted from vodka vermouth and gin. However, the Italian vermouth is the original version, and it is so popular in Italy that there is a whole museum dedicated to it.