Italian Drinks

Italian drinks: Fernet Branca and Grappa Italian drinks: Fernet Branca and Grappa

As well as being famous for the variety and quality of its food, Italy also has a wide selection of alcoholic beverages.

Aside from wine, beer and the usual spirits, you're likely to come across digestivi, spirits drunk at the end of the meal (or sometimes mixed into coffee to make a caffe coretto). Here are some of the more common spirits and liquors that you're likely to come across:


One of the best known Italian drinks, grappa is made from pomace (the grape skins, stalks and seeds left over from the wine-making process), Grappa is one of the spirits that you're likely to be offered after a meal, with an espresso or sometimes served straight from the freezer. Read more about grappa.


A bitter spirit that ranges in colour from gold to dark brown, amaro is likely to appear on the table after a heavy meal. Recipes vary, but all amari essentially consist of an infusion of various herbs, roots, and vegetables in alcohol, and flavours range from earthy and bitter to sickly sweet. Some popular brands of amaro include Amaro del Capo, Ramazzotti, Lucana, Averna, and Fernet Branca.


The alcoholic drink equivalent of Marmite, people either love or hate Fernet-Branca. Known for its digestive properties and very bitter taste (it's not as sweet as most amari), Fernet is a combination of numerous spices, herbs and vegetables, rumoured to include rhubarb and gum myrrh. It's also available in mint flavour as Brancamenta.


Limoncello is a sickly sweet concoction of fermented lemon rinds and sugar. Bottles of Limoncello are available from souvenir shops in a bewildering variety of novelty shapes. Apparently actor Danny DeVito has his own brand of Limoncello.