No one understands the intersection of drinking and culture quite like the Italians do. From morning to night, there’s a drink for every moment. Go ahead: Drink Italian. It’s a way of life.
There’s a lot to admire about Italian cocktail culture, but a big part of what makes Italian drinking so rich is its specificity. It’s not just that every liqueur and spirit is made with a unique set of ingredients and its own distilling process. Each one is also best experienced in specific ways and different times.
Getting to know how and when experts enjoy different brands will tell you far more about them than any flavor description. You don’t need any Italian citizens in your contact list to get this info, because three brand ambassadors have opened up about their ideal experience with some of their favorite Italian originals.
Aperol in the Afternoon
“An afternoon aperitivo absolutely calls for the 3:2:1 perfection of an Aperol Spritz,” says Enzo Cangemi, a Campari brand ambassador born and raised in Italy. “The easy-to-remember 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda water, topped off with an orange slice, is my go-to cocktail for summer afternoons. The most popular Italian cocktail, the Aperol Spritz, is so easily recognizable. I not only love the way it looks in the glass but also how sophisticated it tastes.”
Just a little word about recipes: How you assemble this cocktail does matter. First, create a cloud of prosecco (3 parts), followed by the Aperol (2 parts), topped with a dash of soda water. This layering ensures the Aperol is properly mixed without disrupting those delicate bubbles.
Cynar Before and After Dinner
Cynar isn’t just a popular and delicious Italian liqueur. It’s also one of the most versatile. That’s why Campari brand ambassador Anne-Louise Marquis is equally fond of it before and after dinner. “I love a light, long and bright Cynar cocktail before dinner, after I’ve put away all my work and finally decided the day is done,” says Marquis. “I also like Cynar on the rocks or neat after dinner.”
If you’re looking for something to mix it with prior to dinner, try using grapefruit juice and ginger beer. “The bitterness of the grapefruit, plus the spice of the ginger, plays well with the botanicals of the Cynar,” she says.
One of those light and simple cocktails is the perfect prelude to a heavy, delicious Italian dinner.
Braulio Before Bed
If you’re searching for an authentic Italian night cap, look no further than Braulio. Mike Capoferri enjoys sipping it neat or over a single ice cube as he winds down.
The Campari brand ambassador also has you covered if you’d prefer it in a cocktail. “I love it served Julep-style over crushed ice, lengthened with some fresh lime juice and a touch of simple syrup and garnished with a generous bunch of mint,” he says.
It’s also important to remember that all of these recommendations and rules are only guidelines. Capoferri, for one, isn’t too strict about when he’ll enjoy Braulio. “Braulio can be one of the more obscure amari to find, so I’m not likely to pass it up just because the sun is still up.”