Here are the best Italian cocktails to try! There’s something for everyone: classics like the Americano and Negroni, to an inspired spin on the margarita.
Italy is home of some of most famous culinary inventions of all time, from pizza margherita to pesto to pasta marinara. So is it any wonder that this country is also home to some iconic classic cocktails, too? Without Italy, we wouldn’t have the world famous Negroni, or the bubbly and ubiquitous Aperol Spritz. Then there’s the Americano, with a history that stems back to the 1860’s. The Italians were early to the cocktail game!
Here are all the top Italian cocktails to try! They work whether you’re pairing with Italian recipes or just looking for a Euro cocktail to drink on the patio. Featured are both cocktails that are part of Italian cuisine, and some inspired spins using classic ingredients. Let’s get to it!
Arguably the most iconic of Italian cocktails is the Negroni! It’s equal parts refreshing, bitter, and complex: a drink that you’ll want to sit with and savor a while. The bright red of the Campari makes for a stunning jewel-tone statement of a drink. This three ingredient cocktail is easy to make: and memorize. It was invented back in the 1920’s by a Count Negroni in Florence, Italy, or so the story goes. He ordered an Americano cocktail, but wanted it with a little more kick. He asked for it with gin and the Negroni was born.
Here's another bubbly Italian cocktail: the Negroni sbagliato! It's a "mixed up” version of the classic cocktail using sparkling wine instead of gin. This modern spin on the classic was invented in the 1980’s in Milan! The lightly sweet Prosecco against the bitter Campari and sweet vermouth makes for a better balanced flavor than with gin. You might like this better than the Negroni itself.
The Americano is the oldest known Italian cocktail, and pre-dates the Negroni. It dates back to the 1860's in Italy. The Americano, named for being popular with American tourists, is bitter, complex and bubbly all at once! Starring Campari and vermouth, it’s both sophisticated and carefree at the same time.
Bubbly, citrusy, herbal, subtly bitter and lightly sweet…it’s another one most classic Italian cocktail of them all. Meet the Aperol spritz, aka spritz veneziano! This drink is renowned the world over, reaching max popularity in the 2000’s. But did you know it’s actually a classic cocktail from the 1950’s? This Italian cocktail has been capturing hearts and minds for years (and the concept of a spritz was invented in the 1800's). If you’re like us, you might have rolled your eyes to the popularity of this drink. But taste one made the right way: it’s absolutely worth the hype.
Here’s a sparkling Italian cocktail that’s full of beautiful fresh flavor: the Bellini! The bellini is a classic cocktail created in the 1940's in Venice. The combination of bubbly Prosecco and sweet peach puree couldn’t be more refreshing! It’s ideal in the summer during peach season, as a signature drink for cocktail hour. And of course, it’s natural for brunch like its cousin the mimosa. Luckily, you can use either fresh or frozen peaches: so you can make it anytime!
This cocktail might be the literal definition of refreshing. If you love bubbly spritzes, run don’t walk to try the Hugo cocktail! This Italian cocktail is a spin-off on the Aperol spritz and even better, in our opinion. It’s made with delicate floral elderflower liqueur and bubbly Prosecco, which compliment each other perfectly. The bubbly combination transports you right to Northern Italy, where this cocktail was born and is popular to this day.
Here’s a unique drink to whip up at home: the Garibaldi! This Italian cocktail has so much going for it, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s got only two ingredients, which makes it supremely easy to mix up. There’s a little textural little flair with a foamy topping. And the flavor? It comes out balanced and refreshing, with bitter, sweet and tangy notes all intermingling in the perfect sip.
Here's an Italian cocktail that's not Italian in origin...just in name! This drink is a fusion of the best of Italian and Mexican cuisines, blending a classic margarita with Italian amaretto liqueur. This Mediterranean spin swaps out the Cointreau for amaretto, and the almond essence adds a distinctly Italian vibe. Blood orange juice gives a distinct red hue, but you can use standard orange juice too.
Here’s an Italian cocktail that’s bubbly and flavored with pure lemon: the Limoncello Spritz! Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that’s often sipped for after-dinner shots…but this ultra strong lemon liquor is at its best in mixed drinks. There’s the limoncello mojito and limoncello martini…and now it masquerades in a spritz! This spin on the Aperol spritz is full of bright lemon flavor and even better than the original, we think. It’s bubbly and effervescent, with a searing citrus bite.
Last up, another Italian cocktail that's Italian in name only: the Godfather! It's a two-ingredient cocktail made with Scotch whiskey and Italian amaretto. It became popular in the 1970’s when cocktails were strong and sweet (and often included amaretto). It’s believed to be named after the Godfather movie with Marlon Brando, which came out in 1972. Marlon Brando’s character often drank Scotch in the movie, the Godfather name could be referencing the addition of the Italian liqueur. Either way, it's an easy mixed drink with an ode to Italian heritage.
The Negroni Sbagliato is a spin on the classic cocktail using sparkling wine instead of gin. It’s bitter, sweet and bubbly all at once: an improvement on the original! Also try: Classic Negroni, Americano, or Bellini.
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet or semi-sweet red vermouth
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Campari
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Prosecco, champagne or other sparkling wine
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.