About Italian Spirits

Any discussion of spirits in Italy must begin with grappa, a powerful product distilled from left over grape skins and seeds that is produced all over the country. While the basic grappas can be rough and fiery, there are a handful of firms, especially in the north, that craft refined, artisanal versions that offer more delicate aromas and subtle flavors. Often packaged in strikingly-designed glass and crystal bottles, many of these dazzling products have now taken their rightful place alongside designer spirits at glamorous bars in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Amaro, a digestif, is a popular liqueur, made everywhere in Italy; each version is produced from a special recipe of herbs and spices. These tend to be dry, with some being slightly bitter.

Finally, two other Italian spirits that have become quite popular in America include Amaretto, a sweet liqueur made from almonds, and Sambuca, a dry spirit made from anise seed.
Top Picks for Italy
208022
Vittone
The Original Menta Fernet Vittone
Dark brown black color. Delicate aromas and flavors of chocolate mint cookie, delicate spices, and roasted nuts with a silky, vibrant, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, nuanced, long finish with accents of peppermint oil, honey, delicate herbs, and sassafras. A superb and delicious minty fernet with great drinkability.
98 points $23 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
207481
Lazzaroni
Maraschino
Copper color. Attractive complex aromas of cherry bubblegum and cordial, circus peanut, floral jasmine tea, and delicate spices with a satiny, bright, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, involved, medium-length citrus cream, pepper, orange blossom honey, and pistachio brittle finish. A delicious and elegant fruit liqueur.
97 points $23.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217536
Zucca Rabarbaro
Amaro
Dark ruby brown with a saffron cast. Medicinal, earthy aromas and flavors of medicinal barks and roots and un-sweetened chocolate with a satiny, vibrant, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, very long peppery spices, gentian, hint of wormwood and incense, and exotic teas finish. A superb amaro with great flavor and balance.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
212088
Punt e Mes
Vermouth
Dark brown color. Delicate, spicy aromas of baking spices, pepper, cola, and herbal honey with a satiny, crisp, cloying full body and a tingling, very long cocoa, citrus, prune, and mint finish. A rich and very bitter vermouth that will resonate in cocktails.
95 points $18.99 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
212089
Carpano
Bianco Vermouth
Medium pale slivery straw color. Lively, citrusy, spicy aromas of spiced apples and pears and melon frosting with a soft, vibrant, very sweet medium-to-full body and a tingling, complex, long honey, medicinal barks and roots, and wormwood tea finish. A very traditional vermouth with ample spiciness and bitterness for classic cocktails.
95 points $20.99 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
211758
Montenegro
Amaro Liqueur
Brilliant dark burnt sienna color. Delicate, complex, spicy herbal aromas of orange spice cake, sassafras, dried flowers, and honey with a satiny, sour medium body and a tingling, complex, long nut brittle, bitter bark and roots, and wormwood and herbal tea finish. A refreshing, super balanced, lighter styled amaro for all applications.
95 points $26.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
212087
Antica Formula
Vermouth
Bright bronze color. Bright, spicy aromas of lush orange spice cake, cedar, and sarsaparilla with a soft, crisp, cloying medium body and a tingling, complex, medium-length bitter roots and barks finish. A rock solid traditional sweet vermouth.
95 points $29.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217353
Bepi Tosolini
Amaro Liqueur
Dark dark brown color. Attractive, spicy, herbal aromas and flavors of artisanal root beer, caramelized fruits and nuts, ginger beer, and cardamom and nutmeg with a glycerous, vibrant, moderately sweet medium body and a tingling, subtle, long honeyed nuts, peppery spices, bitter herbs, roots, and barks, and menthol mint finish. A nice, supple amaro that will make a good introduction to the category.
94 points $29.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217420
Bonollo
Amaro
Dark copper color. Aromas and flavors of chocolate orange peel, caramel bread pudding, and cola with a glycerous, tangy, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, amusing, medium-long turmeric, exotic peppercorns, delicate bitter bark, and cedar and slate finish. A delicious, well-poised bitter liqueur with great length and subtle bitterness that will make a great introduction to the category.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
212086
Borghetti
Sambuca Liqueur
Clear silver color. Bright, sweet, spicy aromas of coated licorice candy and gingerbread muffin with a silky, vibrant, sour medium-to-full body and a warming, appealing, long finish. finish. A rich, thick and pure licorice treat.
94 points $26.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab