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21 Most Popular & 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 has a unique drinking tradition.

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

Here are the 21 Most popular Italian Drinks you should try!


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, such as Calimero with coffee, Pirata from rum, and Scozzese made from Whiskey. Bombardino comes from Italian, which means a small bomb because it can warm the body.

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

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.

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 milkier.

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 it is added to the milk in Espresso Macchiato 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.

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. Also, the bartender 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, sold as Antico Negroni 1919. But the origin of Negroni itself is still confusing, and 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.

18. Galliano

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

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.

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%. The alcohol was then 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.

The Campari Group company bought Frangelico in 2010, 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.

16. Sambuca

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Sambuca is an Italian alcoholic drink with 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 the fennel is mixed with alcohol and sugar to make Sambuca. Usually, ingredients such as spices are also used in it, such as elderflower, licorice root, etc. However, this material is not mandatory.

The name Sambuca comes from the Latin word Sambucus which means elderberry. 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. A Sambuca shot was made with one coffee bean called con la Masa or seven coffee beans, representing Rome’s seven hills.

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, 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, various additives 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 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, growing walnuts’ practice 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 be harvested by hand, one at a time, to not damage their shells. It should also be done on 24 June on “San Giovanni’s night” because it is right when the walnuts are still soft.

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, 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 to stimulate the 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.

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. Vin Santo has varying degrees of sweetness as a dessert wine, from bone dry to very sweet.

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 Prosecco’s name relates to a British national, Fynes Moryson, who visited Italy in 1953 and recorded the Pucinum wine under Prosecco’s name.

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 sweetness level can be distinguished based on the label, starting from Brut, Extra Dry, to Dry.

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 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. 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, and there are types of Superiore, Riserva, and others.

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 a Saint’s toga’s unique pink color in a painting by the 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

Bellini’s founder was Giuseppe Cipriani and 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 was made from peaches 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.

Other European drinks:

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. 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.

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 Limoncello’s origin, 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 sugar and water ratio and temperature in the production process can affect Limoncello’s taste, saturation, and viscosity. Limoncello’s alcohol content 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, ice cream, or gelato. Meanwhile, various Limoncello variants, such as pistachiocello using pistachio nuts, meloncello, arancello, and fragnocello.

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 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 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 96/100 in 2011. Also, Campari is the most popular drink in Italy and is included in its top 10 liquor.

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, Ristretto’s taste characteristics 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 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 extracted into about 60 ml or two shot glasses and done quickly.

Even though the amount of coffee powder in Espresso and Ristretto is the same, it is made into only one glass in Ristretto. 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.

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 tastes like wine with a very dependent taste 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.

Besides, Grappa is now one of the names whose quality is protected by the European Union. To be called a Grappa, it must meet at least three criteria, produced in Italy, Switzerland, or San Marino and produce from Pomace.

The final criterion, 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.

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, 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.

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. These ingredients are usually 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.

Amaro Alpine has 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.

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. Also, there are 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 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.

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

1. Espresso

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

Espresso is a brewing coffee method 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 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 Great Britain, Espresso was popular with young people in the 1950s who felt more welcome in coffee shops than in pubs.

Espresso’s variants, such as Caffè Freddo, which is popular in Southern Europe, and Freddo Espresso, 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.

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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