For many travellers in Italy, the food is without doubt one of the most memorable things during their visit: the pastas, pizzas, seafood, aperitivos...but what about the after dinner dirnks
Italy boasts a surprising number of home-grown liqueurs beyond the famous Campari. From the northwestern region of Piedmont to the island of Sicily, the variety of drinks made from locally grown nuts and fruits are the perfect complement to amazing meal.
Piedmont – Frangelico
Not only is Piedmont famous for its confectionery, it also produces a unique liqueur called the Frangelico. Legend has it that over 300 years ago, monks living in the Piedmont hills distilled liqueurs using wild hazelnuts and perfected a recipe that got passed down through the centuries. Today, the brand's name is a nod to a local monk of that time, Fra' Angelico, and the tongue-in-cheek bottle design resembles the silhouette of his attire, with a rope tied around the waist.
Creating this pale, clear golden concoction requires the best hazelnuts – the Tonda Gentile variety from Langhe. Soaked in alcohol and water, the mixture is distilled, then flavoured with roasted coffee, cocoa beans and vanilla pods. During the blending process, more alcohol and water, as well as sugar, are added and left for almost two months to create an incredible aroma.
Modena – Nocino
Though a widely homemade digestif, nocino's standards in Italy have been traditionally upheld by the 'Order of the Modenese Walnut'. Every year, festive parades celebrate this liqueur which is so dear to Modena. Made from unripe walnuts – fleshy and green in colour – nocino is slightly sweet and exudes an unmistakable aroma which lingers on the palate. Officials from the Order perform annual tastings and judge the samples submitted by local producers according to many requirements: density, colour, consistency, intensity, aroma, body, taste, harmony, and above all, the overall experience of enjoying this centuries-old drink.
Capri – Limoncello
What says southern Italy more than a chilled glass of limoncello after an amazing meal? Although this refreshing liqueur is also produced in other regions – for example, Lake Garda where lemon trees thrive in its microclimate – Capri proudly calls the citrus drink its very own, and what's a true Italian story without an anecdote?
In the beginning of 20th century, a local innkeeper used lemon peel, water, spirit and sugar to create a liqueur to treat her guests, and today's Limoncello di Capri brand has faithfully adhere to her method. Protected lemons from Capri and Sorrento are hand-picked, peeled and then cold-infused for several days. Small productions of only1800 litres at a time guarantee a homemade quality.
Sardinia – Mirto
Mirto Zedda Piras is made from the island's native myrtle plant. The very name of this product tells a family story which began in 1854, when Francesco Zedda (whose mother's maiden name was Piras) founded his agricultural company focusing on wines and dessert wines. It was not until the beginning of the 1900s that his son expanded the business to produce distilled spirits and liqueurs, which included mirto. Made with red myrtle fruit and white myrtle leaves, Zedda Piras' formula for success has become Sardinia's very own.
Best recipes to enjoy Italian liqueurs responsibly:
Muddle lime wedges with brown sugar, add ice, mint and four parts of Frangelico. Top off with soda, stir and then garnish with more mint leaves.
Frangelico on the Rocks with lime
Pour one part Frangelico over ice into a glass, add a squeeze of lime and stir.
Pour two parts of Frangelico into a tall glass filled with ice cubes, top it off with ginger ale and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
Pour 30 ml of Limoncello in a martini glass, then add about 150 ml of prosecco or champagne.