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 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
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
Rosso Antico Sweet Vermouth
94 points
Bronze color. Interesting aromas of cola nut, orris root, bitter orange marmalade, rose petal, dandelion, and cassia bark with a round, lively, bittersweet light-to-medium body and a smooth, captivating, medium-long black licorice, nectarine, sultana, and bitter almond finish. A very attractive bitter liqueur with vibrant, fruity character, superbly balanced bitter edge, and lengthy finish.
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
Z44 Dry Gin
94 points
$50
Clear color. Spicy aromas of lemon peel, zucchini bread, wafer crackers, squash blossoms, coriander, and cardamom with a round, crisp, light body and a warming, intricate, medium-length honeydew melon, cracked pepper, citra hops, lime cordial, quartz, and juniper finish. A lovely, balanced, soft gin with a great citrusy pop.
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.
Bepi Tosolini Amaro Liqueur
94 points
$29.99
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
Bonollo Amaro
94 points
$40
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.
Cinzano 1757 Sweet Vermouth
93 points
$29.99
Mahogany color. Aromas of sandalwood, cola, autumn leaves, espresso, cinnamon stick, candied carrot, thyme, and dried fig with a round, vibrant, bittersweet medium body and a smooth, subtle, medium-long gentian and geranium finish. A rock-solid, bold vermouth for serious cocktailers; will hold its own and be a true partner in a cocktail.
93 points $29.99