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The Most Famous Italian Liquors
List of Major Italian Liquors & Liqueurs
-Amaro Fernet Branca - Made from the infusion of numerous ingredients, obtained from different parts of the world. After the infusion takes place, Fernet rests in wood barrels for at least a year. The name of this liqueur, according to many, originated from the Milanese dialect "fer net", clean iron, with reference to a piece of iron which was dipped into the infusion. In fact it is in Milan that Fernet acquired its fame, thanks to producer Bernardino Branca who, more than 150 years, ago began a business which continues to be the market leader. Fernet is best consumed soon after a meal, to help digestion, but can also be used as an addition, or "correction" to espresso coffee. An interesting, and true, anecdote about the first imports of Fernet into the USA is as follows: When the inspectors from the BATF first tested Fernet they classified it under "medicinal beverages" for which a much lower import duty was charged than for alcoholic beverages. Only several years later was it determined that Fernet was an after-dinner liquer and hence commanding a higher import duty.
-Amaretto - Usually a sweet liquor based on Almond ( Amaretto di Saronno is one of the most famous ). This liquor is now prepared using an almond essence, whereas it used to be made by the maceration of apricot seeds. It has an amber colour and a typical almond scent. It can be used after a meal, as a digestive, or as an ingredient in cakes and cocktails : Clear Italian cordial liqueur made from anis seed and tasting like black licorice, very similar to Sambuca but with less alcohol, commonly used in desserts.
-Apertivo - Aperitivi : Aperol, Biancosarti, Martini Bianco. These are all aperitif wines and liqueurs that are consumed prior
-Campari - A red, bitter cordial that can be served in many ways, including with grapefruit juice or with vodka or Tonic Water and ice. Campari fans drink it undiluted, on the rocks or mixed either with mineral water or, for a more aggressive beverage, with white sparkling wine.
-Centerba - Amaro very strong ( alcohol percentage ). This amaro has a very bitter taste that somewhat masks the high alcoholic content. It is based on an infusion of many herbs (centerba means 100 herbs), and the bottle is presented in an attractive straw basket.
Cynar - This liqueur is made from artichokes - It is bitter-sweet and mixes well with Tonic water and Ice.
-Frangelico - Hazelnut liquer/cordial, a nice after-dinner cordial and/or with espresso or coffee extra sweet.
-Godiva - Chocolate liqueur, also available in white chocolate flavor, This liqueur is popular in Italy despite the fact that its origins stem from Belgium.
-Grappa - Fermented from the peels, seed and stems of grapes. Grappa perfectly clear in color and of high alcoholic gradation. Aside from the standard grappa, the liqueur is also flavored in a variety of ways, with pears, apples, prunes, and various types of grapes and berries or herbs. This beverage is very popular in northern Italy, and has gradually gained recognition in many other countries, particularly in the US. It is normally consumed as an after dinner digestive drink.
-Limoncello - It is obtained by the maceration of the rind of lemons in alcohol. One of the most famous areas for purchasing this liqueur is the coast of Sorrento. Here lemons are almost as big as grapefruits! And their scent fills the air mixing with the scent of the sea. Interestingly, limoncello at its best offers mixtures of lemon, lime and marine scents. Nowadays limoncello is made in most parts of Italy, but the Sorrento version remains the most fascinating example.
-Maraschino is produced with cherries and is used especially to prepare cocktails or fruit salads and desserts.
-Martini - Italian brand of both sweet and dry Vermouth, from which the ever popular Martini Cocktail has derived.
-Marsala : Italy has many types of "Port-like" wines or "vino liquoroso", including Marsala. In the case of Marsala there is
-Mellone - Melon liqueur resembling the taste of cantelope or melon.
-Mezzaluna - One of the smoothest Vodkas around, triple distilled/filtered. -Mirto - A typical produce of the island of Sardinia, where myrtle thrives together with other plants like juniper and arbutus (strawberry-tree) which form the Mediterranean scrub. Myrtle berries, dark in colour, are left to macerate in alcohol. Mirto has a garnet red colour, and scents of myrtle, sage and other aromatic herbs as well as cocoa.
-Nocino - Similar to Amaretto - This liqueur is made with green walnuts, together with
-Sambuca - The most popular brand of Sambuca and the most renown is Sambuca Molinari, but Sambuca Romana works fine too. Sambuca is made with star anise and white elder flowers. It is served as digestive, or, with the addition of water, as a long (and refreshing) drink. If you order this in a restaurant, you will typically see 3 coffee beans floating in it, (called Sambuca con la mosca - Sambuca with the fly) signifying health, happiness and prosperity. "Three" is very often symbolic for many reasons, but also because odd numbers are considered luckier than even ones.
-Strega - Literally meaning "witch" in Italian, this is a yellow bitter-sweet liquer cordial with a unique taste.
-Vin Santo : Port like wine from Tuscany. Typically consumed as an after dinner sweet drink, with the "dunking" of crisp almond biscuits. This wine is best consumed in cool winter months.
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