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FOOD & DRINK

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Summer in Italy means lots of things - trips to the beach, empty cities, strikes, and metro works - but it also ushers in the spritz and negroni season. Here are some of the best drinks to cool down with in Italy this summer.

People enjoy an aperitivo drink by the Grand Canal in Venice.
People enjoy an aperitivo drink by the Grand Canal in Venice. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Spritz

Venice wins all the prizes for being the home of the spritz: the jewel in Italy’s summertime daisy crown and one of the country’s most popular exports.

To first-time customers, the sweet-and-bitter combo can taste unpleasantly like a poisoned alcopop. Stick with it, however, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate this sunset-coloured aperitif, which has come to feel synonymous with summer in Italy.

The most common version is the bright orange Aperol Spritz, but if this starts to feel too sweet once your tastebuds adjust then you can graduate to the dark red Campari Spritz, which has a deeper and more complex flavour profile.

What are the best summer drinks to order in Italy?

Photo by Federica Ariemma/Unsplash.

Negroni

If you’re too cool for the unabashedly flamboyant spritz but want something not too far off flavour-wise, consider the Negroni.

It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari – though if you want a more approachable version, you can order a ‘Negroni sbagliato’ – literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni – which replaces the gin with sweet sparkling Prosecco white wine.

Served with a twist of orange peel and in a low glass, the Negroni closely resembles an Old Fashioned, and is equally as stylish. A traditional Negroni may be stirred, not shaken, but it’s still the kind of cocktail that Bond would surely be happy to be seen sipping.

Crodino

Don’t fancy any alcohol but still crave that bitter, amaro-based aftertaste?

A crodino might be just what you’re after. With its bright orange hue, it both looks and tastes very similar to an Aperol Spritz – so much so that you might initially ask yourself whether you’ve in fact been served the real thing.

Similar in flavour are soft drinks produced by the San Pellegrino brand; bars that don’t have any crodino on hand will often offer you ‘un San Pellegrino’ as a substitute. These drinks are usually available in multiple flavours like blood orange, grapefruit, or prickly pears.

A barman prepares a Campari Spritz cocktail in the historic Campari bar at the entrance of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II shopping mall. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Chinotto

Much like the crodino, the chinotto is another distinctive bitter Italian aperitivo drink.

With its medium-dark brown colouring, however, the chinotto bears more of a resemblance to Coca Cola than to the spritz, leading to its occasionally being designated as the ‘Italian Coca Cola’.

In reality far less caramelly and much more tart than coke, the chinotto has its detractors, and the fact that we’re having to describe its flavour here means it clearly hasn’t set the world alight since it was first invented in the 1930s (it was subsequently popularised by San Pellegrino, which became its main Italian producer).

If you’re looking for another grown-up tasting alternative to an alcoholic aperitivo, however, the chinotto might just be the place to look.

Bellini

What’s not to love about the bellini?

Its delicate orange and rose-pink tones are reminiscent of a sunset in the same way as a spritz, but with none of the spritz’s complex and contradictory flavours.

A combination of pureed peach and sugary Prosecco wine, the bellini’s thick, creamy texture can almost make it feel smoothie or even dessert-like. It’s a sweet and simple delight, with just a slight kick in the tail to remind you it’s not a soft drink.

Shakerato

Not a fan of drinks of the fruity/citrusy/marinated herby variety?

If caffeine’s more your thing, Italy has an answer for you in the caffe shakerato: an iced coffee drink made with espresso, ice cubes, and sugar or sugar syrup.

That might not sound inspired at first, but hear us out: the three ingredients are vigorously mixed together in a cocktail shaker before the liquid is poured (ice cube-free) into a martini glass, leaving a dark elixir with a delicate caramel coloured foam on top.

You couldn’t look much more elegant drinking an iced coffee than sipping one of these.

Member comments

  1. Aperol actually comes from Padua. For an authentic Venetian spritz, order a “Select Spritz”. Select is a bright red aperitivo with a gingery flavour.

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Why Italy’s food crusaders are taking culinary tradition too far

Italy is famous for its culinary pride but secret societies and 'brotherhoods' of food purists are going over the top, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why Italy's food crusaders are taking culinary tradition too far

It’s pretty clear that Italians are proud and protective of their cuisine – and they should be – but often they go too far.

In Italy food isn’t just a mouthwatering matter. It’s a serious issue; perhaps sometimes too serious. 

There are dozens of unusual food protection lobbies everywhere across the boot. Secret societies, academies and brotherhoods are out to tell the world that their signature dish and ancient recipes are sacred, untouchable. And that any counterfeit, imitation or adaptation is heresy.

But these purist food crusaders are, in my view, spoiling the spontaneity of Italian traditional cuisine. It would be one thing to add peanut butter to tortellini, which is indeed heresy, but another thing to make the tortellini just slightly larger than the size of a ring finger (which is how die-hard housewives make it).

The ‘Ventricina Academy’, based in Abruzzo, protects an ugly-looking, huge reddish spicy salami – Ventricina – made with pig meat, black pepper, capsicum, chili and fennel seeds. The academy ensures a tight regulation for producers and protects the cold cut at European level, boasting that its region of origin is Abruzzo. But neighboring Molise also claims paternity over ventricina, and is fighting Abruzzo over it.

There are a few differences between the two regional products, how they’re made and with which ingredients. Molise salami-makers add more capsicum while in Abruzzo there’s more hot chili pepper.

An authentic Ventricina sausage. Photo: Francesco Vignali/Ventricina Academy

Regional pools of experts and nutritionists are analysing specific characteristics of their premium Ventricina, while local authorities have waged war against each other with salami propaganda including leaflets, handouts and food fairs where butchers call visitors to offer them a free taste of their specialty. I doubt any gourmand traveller could tell one variant from the other. 

It is a fascinating story that tells us so much about Italy and how so-called provincialism is mainly about food. And the absurdly extreme lengths locals go to promote indigenous delicacies. 

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Last time I visited Bologna I met a bunch of real ‘Azdore’: Italian cook-warriors who defend their sacred art of handmade pasta, menacingly waving rolling pins in the air. 

They showed me the exact movements of the hands needed to make a perfect tortello, tortellino, lasagne and tagliatelle, saying that if you roll a tortellino around the middle or index finger to shape it just won’t be.. a tortellino anymore.

In Bologna you’ll also find the ‘Wisemen Brotherhood of the Tortellino’ who are deadly serious about the city’s copyright of this ring-shaped stuffed pasta which, as legend has it, was inspired by Venus’ belly button.

The ‘wisemen’ tell you how to eat tortellino: exclusively in a thick capon broth. If you mix tortellini with meat ragù like normal pasta, you’re committing a sacrilege.

An Azdora preparing tortellini to regulation size. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

Even desserts are taken seriously. Treviso’s Tiramisù academy protects the original recipe of Italy’s iconic dessert, which must be without coffee, and claims it was born in the town’s brothels as an energizer for clients. 

However, the Friuli region also claims the paternity of tiramisu, albeit with a different recipe and served in a cocktail glass. Anyway, they’re both delicious, and I doubt anyone would be upset if they’re served a ‘non-original’ tiramisu.

While many neighboring towns bicker over which has the best fish soup – if Vasto or Termoli, for instance – and have set up scientific committees to ascertain this, other places have founded associations to protect their native recipes.

The Confraternity of the baccalà alla Vicentina (stockfish cooked the Vicenza way) is a brotherhood of chefs and food experts in Sandrigo, in the Veneto region, that venerates ‘Viking’ stockfish, imported in the 15th century from Norway. 

Its members, who believe codfish must be cooked in a certain way, wander across Italy and Europe dressed in a stockfish knight uniform in search of followers. 

New brothers are blessed at a yearly ceremony involving a mummified stockfish, and become ambassadors who travel the world – one even on a kayak – to spread the gospel of how to prepare the Vicentina stockfish soup.

The confraternity oversees a chain of restaurants, and they’re very strict: if one chef happens to cook the cod for two hours instead of four, his restaurant gets kicked out of the club. 

Tiramisu on display during the first Tiramisu World Cup on November 4th 2017, in Badoere, near Treviso. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO/AFP

And even panettone remains a sacred treat – in spite of recent wacky twists on the recipe such as adding aubergines and olives. 

The original recipe is fiercely defended by Milan’s Chamber of Commerce, where it was registered over fear of counterfeits. The city hall has a list of approved historical artisan boutiques selling the one and only original panettone year-round, meaning that if you don’t buy it in Milan you’ll be eating a fake. 

But there’s no need to look at extravagant foods to understand how such food fetishism can become a bit ridiculous and obsessive, and even downgrades the importance of culinary tradition.

Take simple pizza. Pizza is like bread. You eat it everywhere in Italy; however, fanatical pizza makers claim the ‘real’ Neapolitan pizza made according to regulations (the crust and thickness having specific dimensions) can be savored only in pizzerias that boast a special label. 

I’ve had great pizzas everywhere in Italy: thin, thick, round, rectangular. I only judged it based on whether I liked it. 

Traditions are important but food must be enjoyed, and you don’t need to be a culinary academic or gourmand to appreciate a good slice of salami.

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