About Italian Spirits

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

Luxardo Bitter Liqueur
96 points
$25
Bright red color. Herbal, citrusy aromas and flavors of gentian, wormwood, dried citrus, and toasted almond with a round, crisp, bittersweet medium-to-full body and a smooth, elegant, long finish with shades of orange blossom, rhubarb, black licorice, alpine herbs, and cherry pits finish. A complex bitter with a healthy dose of anise.
Awards: 2017 Best Bitter Liqueur
Enrico Toro Torella 72 Liqueur
95 points
$49
Pale golden green color. Herbal, interesting aromas of woodruff, pine sap, aniseed, cinchona bark, and saffron with a satiny, crisp, sweet light body and a tingling, elegant, long cinnamon, sage, thyme, black tea, cedar, and ginger finish. A light, alpine-inspired liqueur that refreshes deliciously.
Montenegro Amaro Italiano
95 points
$33
Pale golden amber color. Aromas of bitter orange, honeysuckle, quinine, and sandalwood with a round, crisp, sweet medium body and a sleek, refreshing, long orange blossom, cinchona bark, vanilla, and rooibos tea finish. A luscious amaro that will add intrigue to any cocktail.
Amaro dell’Etna Ricetta Originale
95 points
$39.99
Clear mahogany color. Herbal aromas of espresso crema, cola, dark roasted nuts, eucalyptus, and licorice with a fat body and a very complex, long lilac, molasses, caramelized vegetables, iced tea, and raisin finish. A superbly balanced bitter to serve in craft cocktails or neat.
95 points $39.99
Averna Amaro Siciliano Liqueur
94 points
$30.99
Brown black color. Aromas and flavors of rosemary, black tea, chicory, cacao nibs, cedar, anise, and menthol with a glycerous, lively, very sweet medium-to-full body and a graceful, layered, long finish with suggestions of black coffee, chocolate-covered caramel, charred nuts, and cinnamon Danish finish. A rock solid bitter liqueur with bold aromas and a silky smooth, balanced palate.
94 points $30.99
Fratelli Vergnano Cioco Artichoke Liqueur
94 points
$31.95
Mahogany color. Exotic aromas of juicy tangerine, saffron, orris root, ginger, cola, stewed plums,cinnamon, and lemon balm with a velvety, vibrant, bittersweet medium body and a warming, involved, medium-long milk chocolate covered nuts, espresso, and chicory finish. A floral-spiked bitter liqueur that will fit in a wide variety of cocktails; expert balance makes this a nice choice to sip neat after dinner.
Awards: 2018 Best Bitter Liqueur
94 points $31.95
Luxardo Amaro Abano
94 points
Mahogany color. Spicy, minty aromas of cardamom, allspice, black tea, wintergreen, and coriander with a round, bright, bittersweet medium-full body and a peppery, layered, medium-length dark chocolate, espresso crema, roasted collard greens, black licorice, chincona, black pepper, and orange peel finish. A nice and sturdy herbal liqueur that offers a satisfying transition from herbal nose to spicy, pleasantly bitter palate; a welcome addition to cocktails or as a digestivo.
Luxardo Bitter Bianco Liqueur
93 points
Brilliant slivery straw color. Citrusy aromas of celery, key lime, and gentian with a round, crisp, bittersweet medium-to-full body and a tingling, complex, medium-long dried mint, thyme, and oregano finish. A tasty and versatile bitter with balanced fragrant herbs.
Luigi Francoli Fernet
93 points
$28
Dark mahogany color. Herbal aromas of intense eucalyptus, black licorice, and vanilla with a round, vibrant, bittersweet medium body and a seamless, complex, very long cola, wormwood, and black pepper finish. A boldly bitter eucalyptus-driven liqueur that will conquer digestion like a pro.
Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro
93 points
$30
Mahogany color. Smoky, spicy aromas of hickory smoked red pepper, cardamom, charred artichoke, black licorice, gentian, and black pepper with a round, bright, bittersweet medium-to-full body and a delightful, medium-length bitter herbs, molasses, cola, salted chocolate, chicory, espresso, and dried apricot finish. An intriguing smoky liqueur that will offer many options for cocktail play.