The first liquors were born in the Middle-Ages by monks in convents and monasteries looking to create substances for medicinal purposes. These early liquors were mysterious and always kept secret from the general public. By the 16th century, liquors reached the royal classes, but the air of mystery surrounding them prevailed. To this day, ancient recipes remain family secrets. Italian liquor is no exception: many of the recipes for Italy’s most popular liquor are hidden like gems.
Liquori are Italian alcoholic liquids such as ethyl or brandy which go through a process of maceration (cold mixing) or infusion (heating) with varying herbs, fruits, plants, honey, sugar, caramel and many other ingredients. The sweetness of liquori varies greatly, and this is one characteristic that helps break down each drink into separate categories.
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Categories of Italian Liquor
Aperitivo: Usually served before or alongside antipasto to stimulate the appetite for the main course. These drinks are typically less sweet than digestivo.
Digestivo: A drink served after a meal, containing more alcohol than an aperitivo. digestivo are known to aid in digestion processes.
Sweet: These liquori have a decidedly sweet taste and aroma. Examples from the sweet category would be Frangelico, Sambuca, and Amaretto.
Semi-sweet: Campari, Cynar, Strega, and Limoncello are popular Italian semi-sweet liquori. These drinks find a middle ground between bitter and sweet.
Bitters: Liquori with a decidedly bitter flavor from their infusion with herbs. Some sweetness can be found but they are dominated by bitterness. Many types of Amari are found in this category.