Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

If classic Italian cocktails make you think of ill-tempered older gents wearing dark suits and smoking cigars in a soundproofed back room with dramatic overhead lighting, you could be forgiven. But consider that the Italians are professionals when it comes to sexy. Think cars, fashion, food. It’s no real wonder that these favorite libations of the bocce set are making a comeback with hip bartenders and imbibers today.

Italian cocktails cover Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

The players are herbal aperitifs and digestifs like Campari, Aperol, and Fernet, as well as the lovely and delicate limoncello. Blended with sweet vermouth, soda, Prosecco; garnished with jewel-toned slices of fresh fruit; or served neat and bracing — these are cocktails that will call to mind race cars and romance, not menacing mobsters.

Negroni Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

Campari

Having the deceptively bright red hue of grenadine, Campari surprises with a decidedly bitter and refreshing flavor obtained by infusing fruit and herbs in alcohol. Considered an aperitif, cocktails featuring Campari are popularly served before dinner to stimulate the appetite.

Negroni Cocktail

Supposedly originating in Florence, Italy, around 1919, when Count Camillo Negroni requested that his bartender up the ante on his Americano cocktail by swapping out the soda for gin. Looks sweet but isn’t!

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari

Preparation:

Fill a rocks glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, vermouth, and Campari; stir. Pour Campari mixture over ice; garnish with slice of orange.

Americano Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

Americano Cocktail

A Campari original cocktail dating back to the 1860s, this was first known as a Milano-Torino. It received its current name in the 1900s as a nod to the Americans who particularly enjoyed it.

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce Campari liqueur
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Chilled club soda

Preparation:

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add Campari and vermouth; top with soda and stir. Garnish with orange slice.

Aperol Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

Aperol

Aside from having roughly half its alcohol content, Aperol is similar to Campari in its bright (orange) hue and sugar content. A bitter aperitif, Aperol is flavored with gentian, rhubarb, chinchona, and bitter orange.

Aperol Spritz Cocktail

Crisp and refreshing. The gently sweet Prosecco is a perfect foil for the bitter Aperol.

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 4.5 ounces Prosecco
  • Club soda
  • Lemon and lime slice to garnish

Preparation:

Fill glass with ice. Add Aperol. Pour Prosecco over; top with club soda. Garnish with lemon and lime slice.

limoncello and prosecco Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

Limoncello

Made by infusing grain alcohol with lemon zest and combining it with simple syrup, Limoncello is a sweet lemon liqueur lacking a tart citrus bite. It’s typically served as a digestif, in chilled glasses by itself, or used as a cocktail mixer.

Prosecco-Limoncello

A quintessentially elegant cocktail. Light and citrusy — perfect for serving with pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres.

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Limoncello
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4.5 ounces Prosecco
  • Lemon slices

Preparation:

Fill glass with ice. Add Limoncello and lemon juice. Pour Prosecco over. Garnish with lemon slices.

fernet Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

Fernet

Bitter and aromatic, the beloved and well-storied Fernet is made from a complex blend of spices infused in a base of distilled spirits. Herbs flavoring this potent digestif include myrrh, rhubarb, cardamom, and saffron. Because of the complexity of flavors, it’s typically served neat — chilled or at room temperature — or in a shot of espresso.

Serve 1 ounce Fernet, neat, in cordial glass as an aperitif. If desired, follow with a chaser of ginger beer.

All photos are courtesy of the author.

Ciao Bella! Surprisingly Sexy Classic Italian Cocktails

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