If the world of Italian wine seems vast, consider the broad spectrum of spirits produced within its borders. From amaros to sambucas, grappas and more, Italy is a prolific producer of excellent spirits.
It’s a jumble of alcohols and ingredients, but here’s how to put Italy’s boozy bounty into perspective: Consider where each originates. Just like wines, spirits have their own sense of terroir.
Often, liquor traditions start with the local raw materials, like the roots and herbs grown at high elevations that are steeped into bracing, herbal Alpine amaros.
Naturally, the major grape-producing regions yield grappas, brandies and vermouths. And for centuries, southern Italy’s abundant citrus has inspired distillers to capture those sunny fruits in luscious liqueurs.
“You cannot truly know a place in Italy if you don’t sit down at a table and taste the typical products from that area,” says Matteo Meletti, proprietor of Meletti liqueurs.
“The various preparations of pasta, meat and seafood, the traditional wines and sweets, can vary greatly from one area to another,” he says.
“It is the same for spirits.”
Here are some of the country’s best spirits, and how they’re often enjoyed.