The Best Italian Cocktails for Summer

July 29, 2013

Spritz Italian cocktail summer

The closest thing to enjoying an Italian spritz on Lake Como… when you can’t get to Italy? Making one at home!

Italian cocktails… are delicious year-round. But in summer, when the temperature rises and the humidity sets in, there’s nothing more refreshing than an Italian drink—whether a Bellini, spritz, or limoncello.

So next time you’re looking to cool down with a summer cocktail, be it at lunch, aperitivo hour, or dinner, impress your guests (or indulge on your own!) with one of these traditional—yet super-simple—recipes.

Each Italian drink hails from a different region, from the Veneto (that would be the Bellini, of course) down to the south (where you’ll find plenty of limoncello)—so if you’re planning a summer cocktail party, serve them all for a near-effortless “tour of Italy”!

Here are five of our favorite Italian drinks in the summer, with the recipes! (Which one’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments!).

Bellini

The Bellini, a popular and very simple cocktail from Venice

The Bellini, a popular and very simple cocktail from Venice

We begin our “cocktail tour” in the Veneto, a region in northern Italy—and the home of the world-famous Bellini drink. In 1948, the head bartender at Harry’s Bar in Venice invented this simple (yet heavenly!) cocktail. It soon hit the lips of celebrities vacationing in Venice before making its way to New York, where it joined its fans in international stardom.

There are, of course, lots of ways to spike a glass of fruit juice. But the Bellini is a true classic—not to mention, in its simplicity and freshness, the perfect cocktail for summer.

Ingredients

  • two parts Prosecco
  • one part fresh white peach purée

Method

  1. Chill a flute glass
  2. Pour the Prosecco over the purée 
  3. Serve! (Told you it was easy).

Aperol Spritz

One of the best summer cocktails in Italy

An Aperol Spritz, one of the best Italian cocktails for summer

This red-tinted cocktail also originates from Venice, but don’t be surprised if you see locals sipping their Spritzes in Florence, or even as far south as Capri! It just speaks to the fame of this beloved cocktail, and how easy it goes down… no matter where in Italy (or the world) you are.

The most famous version of a Spritz? The Aperol Spritz. Aperol is similar to Campari, and due to its slightly bitter kick—and the sense of refreshment Aperol brings under the afternoon sun—it’s the perfect accompaniment to the Prosecco, soda water and orange that round out the Spritz recipe.

Ingredients

  • three parts Prosecco
  • two parts Aperol
  • one part soda water
  • orange slice

Method

  1. Pour Aperol into a white wine glass, lowball, or highball glass, with ice
  2. Add the Prosecco and soda water
  3. Garnish with a slice of orange

Negroni Sbagliato

Negroni Sbagliato, a popular summer cocktail

A summer version of the popular Negroni cocktail. Photo by Geoff Peters

Campari is one of the most famous Italian liquor companies, and its wide assortment of cocktails please most palates. This version, the Negroni Sbagliato, is a top-notch choice for summer, thanks to the splash of Spumante, a sparkling wine. “Sbagliato“—meaning “wrong”—refers to the fact that in this recipe, the original Negroni cocktail’s gin is swapped out for Spumante, making it summer-ready!

Although it’s thought that the Negroni originated from Florence, the Negroni Sbagliato is said to have been invented in Milan (where Campari comes from) back in the 1960s.

Ingredients

  • one part Campari
  • one part Martini Rosso
  • one part Spumante
  • orange slice

Method

  1. Pour all ingredients into a highball or lowball glass with ice and mix
  2. Garnish with a slice of orange

Caffè Shakerato

Caffe shakerato, a great Italian drink

A refreshing Caffè Shakerato. Photo by Takeaway (WikiCommons)

One of the latest rising stars of Italian cocktails, the  Caffè Shakerato is, believe it or not, virgin. “Shakerato” stems from the English work “shake”—a key part of the drink-making process.

The Caffè Shakerato’s sole purpose is to boost your energy with espresso, while simultaneously lowering your body temperature with its cool frothiness. So make sure to include indulging in one on your to-do list while in Italy, where you will find locals clambering for them during the warm afternoons.

Trust us: Iced coffee just got so much better.

Ingredients

  • one shot of fresh espresso
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
  • ice cubes

Method

  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker and shake uncontrollably for 30 seconds
  2. Drain it without the ice into a maritin or white wine glass
  3. Garnish as you please: coffee bean, orange peel, sugared rim (optional)

Limoncello

Italy drink limoncello

A (tall!) shot of limoncello, a popular Italian drink. Photo by Tiana Kai

The tart taste of limoncello is always a great way to end a meal on the Amalfi coast—or an excellent way to transport you back there! This lemon liqueur originates from Capri, and, today, is Italy’s second most popular liqueur. Traditional limoncello is made from lemons specifically from Capri and Sorrento, thanks to the fruits’ large size and thick peel. Locals enjoy limoncello most often between May and mid-September. (Here’s more about limoncello and its history!).

This digestivo is served best when extremely chilled. And, traditionally, it requires at least 80 days of fermentation. Didn’t plan that far in advance? Don’t worry—four days can suffice, too.

Ingredients

  • zest of 10 organic lemons
  • 1 (750ml) bottle of vodka or pure grain alcohol
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

Method

  1. Remove the lemon peel with a vegetable peeler and trim off the white from the peels
  2. Place peels in a 2-quart pitcher where they will swim in the vodka
  3. Cover the pitcher for at least four days at room temperature
  4. Dissolve the sugar in water over medium heat for 5 minutes, let cool
  5. Add the sugar syrup over the peels and vodka
  6. Cover and seal at room temperature overnight
  7. Strain the limoncello through a strainer and discard peels
  8. Transfer the limoncello to bottles and seal the bottles
  9. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 80 days

What is your favorite Italian cocktail for summer? Let us know in the comments!

by Tiana Kai

View more by Tiana ›

Show Comments

15 responses to “The Best Italian Cocktails for Summer”

  1. ItalianaLeana says:

    Great article! Every drink is distinctive and truly refreshing for the summer months in Italia. Anything with prosecco and limoncello is always a treat. Highly recommend this blogger and her travels. Can’t wait for my next trip back!

  2. Penny Sadler says:

    I love aperol spritz! They all make me thirsty!

  3. Richard says:

    Awesome suggestions! Another great one is Punzoné organic vodka from Italy. Exceptional and unique vodka blends as well and makes some great cocktails. Can read some more here: http://www.italialiving.com/articles/food-wine/punzone-key-ingredient-is-the-vision-to-always-be-seen-and-to-always-be-wanted/

  4. Diane Consolo Mattingly says:

    Thanks, for the info on the summer drinks.

  5. Adri says:

    Cin! cin! What a wonderful collection!

  6. Yvonne Touchette says:

    Bellini it is for me….preferrably at Piazza San Marco in Venice. THE BEST !!

  7. Mandi says:

    I’m on the Italian lakes every summer and very addicted to the above cocktails however… I’m a big fan of the Hugo spritz. Prosecco, elderflower, soda and mint leaves! Great article, really enjoyed reading.

  8. Ramon chasco says:

    Lemonchello the best for Sumer. I infuse my own.

  9. Eugenio Martino says:

    Sgroppino for me please

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