We all know that Italians love their espresso, and we also know that Italians also have a fear of ice--especially in a drink. "Heaven forbid", your Nonna would warn, against getting a stomach ache or worse--a chill. Nonna's warning aside, there is a great way to beat the heat if you're espresso inclined--the Shakerato. It's the closet thing to iced coffee that you will find in Italy.
A basic Shakerato is made by combining hot espresso, sugar, a shakerful of ice, and then shaking vigorously in a cocktail shaker until a froth forms. Some get fancy with the Shakerato by adding chocolate syrup or using gelato in place of ice. Many baristas will even add some Amaretto or cream. Typically, your Shakerato will be served in a champagne flute.
2 shots espresso
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
shaker of ice
Optional: Amaretto or liquor of your own choosing
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, pour in the hot espresso and sugar, (and a shot of liquor of choice) then shake vigorously until frothy. Pour into a chilled martini glass and serve.
Original Negroni and the Negroni Sbagliato
The Negroni has become the go-to Italian cocktail, even out of Italy. It is considered an aperitif, to build your appetite before a meal.
one part gin
one part vermouth rosso (red or semi-sweet)
one part Campari
Garnished with orange peel.
Variation: To make a Boulevardier, the gin is replaced with bourbon.
The Negroni Sbagliato is a later, lighter version of the Negroni. The word Sbagliato means “mistaken” or "bungled" in Italian, referring to this drink's origin. In 1968, a busy bartender at Milan’s famous Bar Basso, made a mistake making a Negroni, and reached for a bottle of bubbly Prosecco instead of gin. If you like fizzy drinks, you'll love this one.
1 part Prosecco
1 part vermouth
1 part Campari
Stir and serve with ice or "straight up".
During the 19th century when the Austro-Hungarian Empire controlled the Veneto, the Spritz was born in Padua. Germans had a taste for lighter wines than the heavier, often sweeter wines of the Veneto, to they had their drinks served with a spritzen--a spray of soda water--to lighten them up. The classic Spritz version is made with Aperol, but other choices are Campari, Cynar or Select. In fact, when a person orders a Spritz in Italy, they are expected to tell the barista their liquor of choice.
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol (or other liquor)
1 splash soda water
Stir and serve up or on the rocks, with a garnish of orange or lemon slice or an olive.
In Venice, the custom is to have some sgropin (sorbet) in between meal courses to cleanse the palette. In the local Venetian dialect there are many words that mariners use, especially relating to nautical knots. The dialect word, sgroppino means "little un-knotter"--supposedly, the drink unties knots in your stomach during large feasts.
1/3 cup lemon sorbet
3 ounces Prosecco
Whisk together by hand or with an electric hand mixer, then pout into a frosty champagne flute. Top with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon or lime.
In Italy, summer is the time for marrying your favorite fruit to your favorite alcoholic liquor. Peaches are a natural for this technique. In 1948, bartender Giuseppe Cipriani, developed a new cocktail by combining a peach puree (he loved white peaches) with the Italian bubbly, Prosecco, and served it as his Harry’s Bar in Venice. Supposedly, he named it after the pink hue in many of Renaissance painter Bellini’s masterpieces.
2 parts Prosecco
1 part peach puree
It couldn't be simpler, as most great Italian things are... Stir and serve in a chilled glass.
Now, technically, Limoncello isn't a mixed cocktail--you don't mix it, you make it yourself. Making Limoncello has been a tradition in southern Italy, namely around the gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, for at least a hundred years, although some claim that until the 1980s, the drink was made by only a handful of families in Campania. The huge, wrinkled, thick skinned Sfusato lemons grown in the Amalfi area are typically used, but you can use any lemons that are bright in both fragrance and color. Limoncello is considered a digestivo, meant for aiding digestion at the end of a meal, always served chilled, but is also used as an ingredient in mixed cocktails.
Of course, you can find it and pay high prices for the better bottles imported directly from Italy, but I thought it would be more fun to give you a recipe to make it right in your own home.
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
3 - 1/2 cups water
3 - 1/2 cups sugar (add more if you'd like it sweeter)
The Italian way to make Limoncello is with grain alcohol, but most in the States use vodka--your choice. As the Italians do, select the best, most fragrant lemons (organic, if you can find them) and then wash them with a brush and water in the kitchen sink.
Using a standard type of vegetable peeler, remove the zest (not the white pith) and steep them in the alcohol/vodka for 4 days. Afterwards, strain the peels from the liquid through a fine mesh cheesecloth. Discard the peels.
Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until a simple syrup develops--around 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Then add the syrup into the lemon mixture. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. (Stores like Marshall's/Home Stores usually sells decorative bottles perfect for bottling your limoncello.) You can add some spiraled peels of lemon into the bottles. Seal the bottles... they will store well like any liquor--for several years--that is, if you can go that long without drinking it!
Variation: Crema di Limoncello
You can replace the water when making the simple syrup with whole milk and add vanilla to make a creamy version of Limoncello.
So there you have it... several great Italian cocktails to have when you visit Italia or when relaxing on your backyard deck. Enjoy them with friends and great food. And remember, don't drink and drive--especially when on the Amalfi Coast Road...
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Copyright Jerry Finzi/Grand Voyage Italy - 2016