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

Vittone The Original Menta Fernet Vittone
98 points
$23
Best Buy
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
Lazzaroni Maraschino
97 points
$23.99
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
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
Punt e Mes Vermouth
95 points
$18.99
Best Buy
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
Carpano Bianco Vermouth
95 points
$20.99
Best Buy
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
Antica Formula Vermouth
95 points
$29.99
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
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