21 Most Pupular & Iconic Italian Drinks You Must Try

Italy is a country that has a long history in Europe. The area that was once the core of Roman civilization, of course, has a unique drinking tradition.

Besides having a world-famous specialty coffee, Espresso, there are many other interesting ones that you should know.


1. Espresso

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Espresso is an Italian-style coffee-making method that is well known throughout the world.

Espresso is a method of brewing coffee that is produced by extracting finely ground coffee beans and adding nearly boiling water under high pressure.

The history of Espresso is related to the name Angelo Moriondo from Turin, Italy. Moriondo patented a steam-driven “instant or fast (espresso/express)” coffee maker in 1884. Since then, Moriondo is known as one of the earliest inventors of the Espresso machine.

After experiencing various improvements, the Espresso machine was finally mass-produced in the 1900s, one of which was through the La Pavoni company. Espresso’s popularity has also to do with urbanization, as Espresso bars provide a place to socialize.

Espresso then spread throughout the world, in the United States, Espresso is popular in the form of Cappuccino. In addition, in Great Britain, Espresso was also popular with young people in the 1950s who felt more welcome in coffee shops than in pubs.

There are several variants of Espresso, such as Caffè Freddo which is popular in Southern Europe, and Freddo Espresso, which is popular in Greece and Cyprus. Espresso can also be distinguished by the size or length of the shot. Espresso is bitter, strong, and contains more caffeine.

2. Cappuccino

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Cappuccino is an Espresso based coffee drink originating from Italy. Traditionally, cappuccino is made by steaming with foamed milk or microfoam. In addition, there are also Cappuccino variants that use cream, non-dairy milk, and others.

Initially, coffee consumption in Europe was prepared in a traditional Ottoman style, by boiling a mixture of coffee and water at the same time. Meanwhile, the method of adding milk to coffee was actually done by European residents in the 1700s.

Meanwhile, Cappuccino itself comes from the ‘kapuziner‘ coffee drink served at a coffee shop in Vienna, Austria. in the 1700s. Kapuziner is also mentioned in writings in the 1850s that describe coffee with cream, spices, and sugar.

Cappuccino written in Italian was first mentioned in Northern Italy in the 1930s, with a picture not much different from the Kapuziner from Vienna. Cappuccino is usually consumed in the morning until 11.00am, because it contains milk in it.

There are two ways to make cappuccino, traditional and latte. The ingredients used are actually the same, it’s just that the Cappuccino latte is served in a smaller cup with a milk or cream pattern on it. The cappuccino was sweet and rich in flavor.

3. Amaro

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Amaro which in Italian means bitter, is the name of an Italian herbal liquor. Amaro does have a taste between bitter and sweet, sometimes tastes like syrup, contains alcohol between 16% – 40%, and is usually drunk after meals.

Amaro is made from the maceration of mushrooms, roots, flowers, bark or orange peels in alcohol, be it a neutral alcoholic drink or wine. After that, it is filtered and then mixed with sugar syrup and let the mixture sit for a certain time in a barrel or bottle.

Apart from that, Amaro is also usually seasoned with several herbal ingredients such as certain herbs and roots. Usually, these ingredients are listed on the packaging label on the bottle, for example, angelica, gentian, cinchona, fennel, ginger, mint, cardamom, sage, and others.

There are various styles from Amaro, which differ based on their alcohol content, taste, ingredients, and color. For example, Amaro Medium contains 32% alcohol, tastes bitter, sweet, and orange, Amaro Fernet has a sharper taste and Amaro Light is light in color.

There is also Amaro Alpine with a smokey taste, usually containing 17% alcohol, Amaro Vermouth, which is wine-based and tastes sweeter, and others like Amaro Carciofo, China, Rabarbaro, and Miscellaneous. Amaro is believed to have existed since the 19th century.

4. Amaretto

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Amaretto is the name of a sweet Italian liqueur that comes from the Saronno region of Italy.

Amaretto in Italian means slightly bitter. Amaretto is made from apricot seeds, peach seeds, or almonds, a natural source of benzaldehyde, which is an alcoholic, almond-like flavor.

The taste of Amaretto actually refers to the distinctive character of the drupe, which tends to be sweet and slightly bitter. The history of Amaretto can be traced back to 1525 when Bernardino Luini was assigned to paint the walls of a church in Saronno.

The pupil of Leonardo da Vinci needs to portray the figure of Madonna. Luini then found his inspiration in a widow who became his model. The woman then thanked him by giving a gift of apricot seed marinade to the brandy.

This story became one of the popular legends about Amaretto. When served as a drink, Amaretto is usually drunk straight or it can also be used in cocktail or coffee mixes. Even Amaretto can also be applied in culinary.

Some examples of popular cocktails that use Amaretto are Amaretto pina Colada, Amaretto Sour, French Connection, Godfather, and others. Meanwhile, the famous brands of Amaretto are like Disaronno, Lazzaroni, and Luxardo.

5. Grappa

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Grappa is a fragrant brandy made from Italian grape-based pomace with an alcohol content of between 35% and 60%.

Most of the Grappa is traditionally produced in Northern Italy and San Marino. Grappa is usually served after dinner.

Grappa does taste like wine with a taste that is very dependent on the quality and type of grapes used and the distillation process. Grappa is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and pomace sticks leftover from making wine. The alcohol content is between 35% and 60%. Most of the Grappa is traditionally produced in Northern Italy and San Marino. Grappa is usually served after dinner.

Distillation is an ancient practice that can be traced back to the 1st century AD. Around the 1600s the Jesuits in Spain, Italy, and Germany studied and codified the techniques used to produce brandy and Grappa which are used today.

In addition, Grappa is now one of the names whose quality is protected by the European Union. So that to be called a Grappa, it must meet at least three criteria, namely, produced in Italy, Switzerland, the Italian part, or in San Marino and produced from Pomace.

The final criterion, namely fermentation, and distillation, must be carried out on the pomace without additional water. Most of the Grappa is translucent and some have a faint pigment from the pomace fruit. Famous Grappa producers are like Nardini, Jacopo Poli, can Nonino.

6. Ristretto

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Ristretto is a highly concentrated Espresso coffee drink. Ristretto is made with the same amount of ground coffee, however, the coffee is extracted with a finer grind in 20-30 seconds using half the water, making it more concentrated.

Coffee contains at least more than a thousand aroma compounds. In Ristretto itself, there are several distinctive characteristics of the coffee produced, it is more concentrated with dark color variations, the balance is different, and the total amount of coffee extract is less.

In general, the taste characteristics of Ristretto can be described as bolder, fuller, stronger, and less bitter than ordinary Espresso. Ristretto can also be diluted in a cup of water like Americano or Long Black and also in milk.

Ristrettos can be made using a hand pressing machine or an automatic pressing machine. Double shot as a basic ingredient of Ristretto usually uses 14-18 grams of coffee grounds which are extracted into about 60 ml or two shot glasses and done in a short time.

So even though the amount of coffee powder in Espresso and Ristretto is the same, but in Ristretto it is made into only one glass. This is what makes the characters feel different because they are stronger and more intense. Ristretto is a typical Italian coffee variant based on Espresso.

7. Campari

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Campari is the name of the Italian liquor. Campari is made using an infusion method made from fruit and herbs such as Chinnotto and Cascarilla. It is dark red in color with a bitter, spicy, and slightly sweet taste, produced by the Campari Group.

In 1860, Gaspare Campari invented the Campari drink in Novara, Italy. Initially, the red color of Campari was made using crushed cochineal insects. However, in 2006, the use of insects was stopped in production.

Campari’s first factory was opened in Sesto San Giovanni, an area near the city of Milan, Italy in 1904. Now the Campari brand has been distributed in more than 190 countries. In fact, the Campari Group owns about 45% of the world’s liquor sales.

Campari is often used in cocktails and is usually served with sparkling water, orange juice, or with Prosecco. Campari in Italy is also sold as a bottled soda mixture called Campari Soda with an alcohol content of 10%.

Various awards have been pinned on Campari, such as Wine Enthusiast which gave a score of 96/100 in 2011. In addition, Campari is also the most popular drink in Italy and is included in the top 10 liquor in the world.

8. Limoncello

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Just like its name, Limoncello is the name of an Italian lemon liqueur that is widely produced in Southern Italy. Meanwhile, in Northern Italy, it is often referred to as the Limoncino. It looks a bit cloudy due to the presence of an essential oil suspension in it.

There is debate over the origin of Limoncello, but at least the drink is hundreds of years old. Limoncello has become the second most popular alcoholic drink in Italy after the Campari. It has a strong lemon flavor with a slightly sour and bitter taste.

Traditionally, Limoncello is made from lemon zest known as Sorrento lemon or Sfustato. The lemon peel is soaked in alcohol until the essential oil is released. After that, the resulting liquid is then mixed with the syrup.

The level of sugar and water ratio and temperature in the production process can affect the taste, saturation, and viscosity of Limoncello. Limoncello’s alcohol content also varies especially if it’s homemade, but generally ranges between 25% and 30%.

Limoncello is usually served after dinner, but it is also served in cocktails, cakes, and ice cream or gelato. Meanwhile, there are various Limoncello variants, such as pistachiocello using pistachio nuts, meloncello, arancello, and also fragnocello.

9. Vermouth

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Vermouth is a wine that is enriched and flavored with various aromatic herbs such as roots, bark, flowers, seeds, and spices. The modern version of Vermouth was first produced in the mid to late 18th century in Turin.

Initially, Vermouth was made for medicinal purposes but was popular as an aperitif or alcoholic drink introduced by cafes in Turin. Until then in the 19th century, Vermouth was well known among bartenders as the main ingredient in classic cocktails.

Historically, there are two types of vermouth, which are sweet and dry. Vermouth production is carried out using a wine which is then mixed with alcohol and aromatic herbal ingredients. After that, it is then made sweet with added sugar.

The name Vermouth comes from the French pronunciation of Wermut, the German term for wormwood which has been used as an ingredient in a drink. Wormwood enriched wine has existed in Germany since the 16th century and was brought by Italian traders.

An Italian merchant named D’Alessio then made his own potion using ingredients other than wormwood. Italian vermouth is usually red, bitter, and slightly sweet. Famous Vermouth brands include Martini & Rossi and Punt e Mes.

10. Bellini

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Bellini is the name of a cocktail made with Prosecco and peach puree. Bellini comes from Venice, Italy. The name Bellini comes from the unique pink color of a Saint’s toga in a painting by the 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

Bellini’s founder was Giuseppe Cipriani, and also the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice between 1934 and 1948. This legendary bar in Venice and located just off the Grand Canal is iconic and frequented by famous people such as Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart.

Initially, the drink was made as a seasonal special at his bar, because it made from peaches that are harvested seasonally. Bellini is becoming more and more popular with its partner bar in New York and hugging it all the time mainly thanks to its international regulars.

To make Bellini is made by soaking a pureed white peach and Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. The original recipe uses a dash of raspberry or cherry juice to make it pink. You can also replace the peach pulp with mandarin juice.

Because white peaches are very seasonal and can taste very bland outside of the season, they can be replaced with yellow peaches or peach nectar. You can also replace Prosecco with non-alcoholic drinks, such as fizzy juice or seltzer.

11. Chianti Wine

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Chianti wine is a wine produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. The original packaging was in the form of a flask wrapped in a straw basket, called a ‘thermos’. Chianti has a rough and bitter taste with various aromas, one of which is sour cherry.

Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who was prime minister of the Italian kingdom, created the Chinati recipe in the mid-19th century. The ingredients used are 70% Sangiovese wine, 15% Canaiolo and the remaining 15% Malvasia Bianca.

But the history of Chianti actually started even earlier. In the 13th century when grapes were grown in the Chianti mountains around Florence. Merchants in the nearby towns of Castellina, Gaiole, and Radda formed the Lega del Chianti (Chianti league).

The league was created to produce and promote local wines. In 1398, it was recorded that the first Chianti grapes were white grapes. Since 1996, the Chianti blend has been 75-100% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, and 20% red wine.

The production and composition of Chianti are strictly regulated within the boundaries of the named Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). Chianti flavor varies depending on the type of aging, there are types of Superiore, Riserva, and others.

12. Prosecco

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Prosecco is a white wine produced in DOC and DOCG regulatory areas, such as Chianti, covering the nine provinces of Veneti and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Therefore, Prosecco was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

Prosecco’s history goes back to Trieste in the early 16th century, the local wine “Ribolla” was promoted and won praise from the wife of August Emperor, Livia, for its medicinal qualities. The ribolla is then referred to as “castellum nobile vinum Pucinum“.

The name is taken from the name of a castle near the village of Prosecco. The first mention of the name Prosecco relates to a British national, Fynes Moryson, who visited Italy in 1953 and recorded the Pucinum wine under the name Prosecho.

After that, in 1754 the Prosecco spelling appeared for the first time in the book Il Roccolo Ditirambo written by Aureliano Acanti in Novoledo, Province of Vicenza. Prosecco is made by the Charmant-Martinotti alternative method, fermentation in steel tanks.

Most Prosecco is made in sparkling or fizzy style with the nickname Spumante and semi-sparkling or called Frizzante. Prosecco’s taste character tends to be sweet, the level of sweetness can be distinguished based on the label, starting from Brut, Extra Dry, to Dry.

13. Vin Santo

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Vin Santo is the name of traditional dessert wine from Tuscany, Italy. In Italian Vin Santo means holy wine. Often Vin Santo is made from white grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia and sometimes also from Sangiovese red grapes.

Another nickname for Vin Santo is straw wine as it is often produced by drying the grapes harvested on straw mats. The drying method used in making Vin Santo allows the sugar in the wine to be thicker.

In fact, the dry winemaking style used in Vin Santo has been around for a long time along with winemaking. However, Vin Santo’s distinctive style can be traced back to the history of the Catholic Mass where at that time sweet wines were preferred.

One of the earliest references to Vin Santo comes from the records of Florentine wine merchants during the Renaissance who marketed sweet, strong wines in Rome. Eventually, the name “vinsanto” became a general term for wines with a sweet character.

The yeast used in fermentation is Amadre, which comes from the previous Vin Santo production and is stored in barrels made from chestnut. As a dessert wine, Vin Santo has varying degrees of sweetness, from bone dry to very sweet.

14. Cynar

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Cynar is an Italian bitter liquor that is derived from the amaro variety. Cynar is made from 13 types of plants, some of which are predominantly artichoke or Cynara scolymus, which is why it is called Cynar. The color is dark brown with an alcohol content of 16.5%.

Artichokes, which are the main ingredient in Cynar, are proven to aid digestion. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans are said to eat artichokes to improve digestion. Artichokes also benefit the liver and can bring out a sweet taste.

Cynar is a type of aperitif or low sugar alcoholic drink, low alcohol, and is made with the aim of stimulating appetite. Therefore, Cynar is often consumed directly or made into cocktails such as a mixture of sparkling water and lemon slices.

Cynar’s popularity dates back to the 1960’s thanks to his appearance in Ernesto Calindri’s Italian television commercial, Carosello. Actually, Cynar was marketed and produced in Italy in 1952 by a Venetian businessman, Angelo Valle Molle.

Then in 1995 the famous Italian alcoholic beverage company, Campari Group acquired Cynar. Since then, Cynar’s popularity has expanded to the United States. Several bartenders began experimenting with Cynar’s signature bitter character.

15. Nocino

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Nocino is a sticky dark brown liquor originating from the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. Nocino is made from raw green walnuts, which are processed using ceramic or wooden utensils and then mixed with alcohol.

The taste of Nocino tends to be aromatic but also bitter. Because besides walnuts there are various additives that are often used. Such as cinnamon, juniper berries, lemon or orange zest, vanilla, coffee beans, and cloves, according to the recipe used.

Meanwhile, the alcohol which is the base ingredient is usually made of pure alcohol, but vodka can also be used. Although Nocino is an alcoholic drink that is often made in-house, it is now commercially available in bottled form.

According to Roman historians, Nocino actually came from England. Up to a certain point, the practice of growing walnuts reached the Italian peninsula and became known as Nocino. During medieval times, Italian monasteries used Nocino as medicine.

The Nocino-making tradition requires that the walnuts must be harvested by hand, one at a time so as not to damage their shells. It should also be done on 24 June on “San Giovanni’s night” because the time is right when the walnuts are still soft.

16. Sambuca

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Sambuca is a typical Italian alcoholic drink that has a sweet taste and is made from star anise or green anise and other ingredients. Often Sambuca is colorless, with the most common variety being white Sambuca. Each bottle usually contains about 38% alcohol.

The essential oil from fennel is mixed with alcohol and sugar to make Sambuca. Then usually ingredients such as spices are also used in it, such as elderflower, licorice root, and others. Although this material is not mandatory.

The name Sambuca comes from the Latin word Sambucus which means elderberry. The word Sambuca was first used to name an elderberry liqueur made in Civitavecchia, Viterbo province some 130 years ago by Luigi Manzi.

To serve Sambuca you can use the neat bartender method or on the rock. This method produces an ouzo effect derived from the anetol in star anise. Sambuca can also be consumed as ammazzacaffè or mixed into coffee to form caffè corretto.

Traditionally Sambuca is made with three coffee beans which each represent health, happiness, and prosperity. There is also a Sambuca shot made with one coffee bean called con la Masa or seven coffee beans, representing the seven hills of Rome.

17. Frangelico

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Frangelico is a brand of Italian herbal-flavored liquor made from hazelnut and flavored hazelnuts with caramel coloring. Frangelico is produced in Canale, Italy, and is known for its unique packaging, because the bottle is made like a monk.

According to its creators, Frangelico is based on the legend of a monk named Fra Angelico who created a unique recipe for alcoholic drinks. Meanwhile, the unique bottle packaging on Frangelico is similar to the custom of the Franciscan monks.

When produced by the Barbaro family, Frangelico has an alcohol content of as much as 28%. Then the alcohol was reduced to 24% and now Frangelico is made with an alcohol content of 20%. The Frangelico brand was first created in 1978.

Making Frangelico is similar to making any other nut liqueur. First, the nuts are crushed and mixed with chocolate, vanilla berry, and other flavors. After that, it is allowed to soak in the spirit, filtered, made sweet, then stored in a bottle.

Frangelico was bought by the Campari Group company in 2010, which was previously owned by William Grant and the C&C Group. Frangelico received many positive reviews from the spirit rating organization, even taking 1st place, the highly recommended category.

18. Galliano

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Liquore Galliano L’Autentico or better known as Galliano is a sweet herbal liquor made in 1896 by producer Arturo Vaccari from Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. His name is inspired by Giuseppe Galliano, an Italian army.

Galliano is made from many natural ingredients including star anise, Mediterranean fennel, juniper berries, yarrow musk, lavender, mint, cinnamon, and a characteristic vanilla flavor. Galliano uses sugar and glucose syrup to sweeten it, and caramel as a colorant.

To make Galliano, neutral alcohol is infused and then pressed together with other herbal ingredients except for vanilla. The liquid is distilled off and then infused with vanilla separately. In the final stage, the distilled water is mixed with refined sugar mixed with alkaline.

Galliano’s packaging is unique as a classic Roman pillar. It is yellow in color with an alcohol content of about 30% or 42.3%. Galliano has won awards, namely bronze and silver medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Galliano’s flavor is sweet with a strong vanilla flavor that sets it apart from other anise-flavored alcoholic drinks such as Sambuca. Galliano can be served after a meal or used as a cocktail, especially on the Harvey Wallbanger, Yellow Bird, and Golden Cadillac.

19. Negroni

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Negroni is a popular Italian cocktail made with gin, Vermouth Rosso, Campari, and garnished with orange peel. Negroni is traditionally made by stirring, not shaking, and served over ice in an old glass or stone glass with an orange slice garnish.

Although the origins of the Negroni are not widely known, there is a report that the Negroni was first made in Florence, Italy in 1919 in Caffè Casoni. Camilio Negroni has the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his cocktail.

Camilo Negroni’s favorite cocktail is Americano then added gin instead of regular soda. In addition, the bartender also added orange garnishes instead of lemon garnishes. After the success of his cocktail orders, the Negroni family founded a distillation factory.

Negroni distillation was established in Treviso, Italy, and produces Negroni ready-to-eat and packaged which is sold as Antico Negroni 1919. But the origin of Negroni itself is still confusing, some say it was discovered in Senegal in 1857 by Count Negroni.

There are various variants of Negroni, such as Boulevardier, Old Pal, Agavoni or Tegroni, Dutch Negroni, Fergroni, Old ‘Groni, White Negroni and others. Negroni has a bitter taste, but the use of red and orange vermouth adds a balanced sweetness.

20. Latte

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Caffè Latte or commonly referred to as Latte is an Italian coffee drink made with Espresso and steamed with milk. Its name comes from the word caffè e latte which means coffee and milk. Latte variants include chocolate-flavored mochas, teas, and other types of milk.

Coffee and milk have actually been part of traditional European drinks since the 17th century. That is why terms such as caffè e latte, Milchkaffee (Germany), cafè au lait (France), and cafè con leche emerged. Coffee and milk are usually part of the breakfast menu.

Although at first glance similar to Cappuccino, Latte is actually different. Cappuccino is made with Espresso and steamed milk with a layer of foam 20 mm thick. While the original Italian Latte usually has a thinner foam and tastes sweeter and more milky.

The thin foam on the Latte makes it easy to make art or create. Lattes and cappuccinos can be made hot or cold. However, it is more common for Lattes to be made iced. When made into ice, the flavors of Cappuccino and Latte are similar because the foam is gone.

Caffè Latte is also different from Latte Macchiato because in Espresso Macchiato it is added to the milk and not the other way around. Therefore Caffè Latte has a stronger coffee taste. So Caffè Latte shows that there is a little milk under the Espresso foam.

21. Bombardino

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Bombardino is a popular drink in Italy during winter especially in ski resorts, Alps. Bombardino is made by mixing ½ Advocaat or eggnog and ½ Brandy. Bombardino is usually served hot with whipped cream on top.

There are several versions of Bombardino based on the ingredients used, such as Calimero with coffee, Pirata from rum, Scozzese made from Whiskey. The name Bombardino itself comes from Italian which means a small bomb because it is able to warm the body.

The official Bombardino recipe was created by pastry chef Gian Battista Pezziol from Padua who found new and creative ways to make use of leftover eggs in Torrone production. In addition, many Northern Italian families serve their own egg liquor in their homes.

Besides that, traditionally Bombardino is also made with a sweet and thick Italian pudding called Zabaglione but nowadays it often uses eggnog or egg-based liqueur. Then mixed with coffee, rum, brandy, or whiskey.

Bombardino is usually served in small Espresso cups or shot glasses unlike most other types of cocktails. Bombardino has a pretty strong flavor and of course, is able to warm in winter or after skiing in northern Italy.

The country of Pizza is indeed synonymous with Espresso. The coffee drink can even be said to have become a coffee trendsetter around the world.

But it turns out that there are many more unique drinks from Italy, so don’t forget to try them when you are there.

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