Nothing says ‘sophisticated’ like a well-mixed aperitivo. With Italian liqueurs having a moment, we asked four of Italy’s finest to make us something classy for Christmas
Words Tobias Gourlay Photos Max Miechowski
This is a modern take on a traditional fish house punch. The bergamot orange is in there because it’s one of the most wintry citrus flavours. This is easy to make for bigger groups.
700ml fennel seed tea
4 tbsp sugar
700ml Italicus bergamot liqueur
28 dashes orange bitters
3 cups of ice cubes
You can build this one in a punch bowl to serve eight. Brew the fennel seed tea with three tablespoons of loose leaf or three bags. Add the peel from three lemons and leave it half an hour to cool down, before stirring in the sugar until it dissolves. Pour in the wine, the Italicus and the bitters. Drop in the ice and stir for 30 seconds. Serve in iced cups or glasses, garnished with lemon peel or edible flowers.
Simone Francini, head bartender, Ritorno
Each winter, my nonno (grandfather) used to harvest pomegranates and oranges. These are the flavours I remember around the table at Christmas time. My cocktail is a twist on the bellini, with citrus and herbaceous notes to clean the palate before dinner.
20ml VKA Tuscany organic vodka
15ml Liquore delle Sirene
15ml freshly squeezed orange juice
15ml egg white
10ml fresh lemon juice
10ml tonka bean syrup
10ml pomegranate syrup
Vezzoli Franciacorta sparkling wine to top
Shake the ingredients together and serve in a flute glass with no ice. Top with the Franciacorta and garnish with grapefruit peel, pomegranate seeds and tonka bean powder. You could also make an Italian Christmas spiced essence with a Campari base, cinnamon and star anise to spray on top.
Luca Bergagna, general manager, Bar Termini Centrale
I love an aperitivo, especially at Christmas. The delicate cinnamon notes in the Barolo Chinato remind me of the mulled wine you see and smell as you walk through a Christmas market. This is easy to make and, because it’s a special occasion, I’m using prosecco too.
25ml Barolo Chinato
Grab the Barolo Chinato from the fridge and pour into a chilled flute. Top it up with prosecco and garnish with orange peel. Yes, it really is that simple.
Christmas with Toto
Pietro Rizzo, Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour
I’ve named my cocktail for Totò, an Italian comic actor who was big in the 1950s, when Italy itself was also in its pomp. Because of our quality and traditions, ‘Made in Italy’ meant something around the world. This is where we need to get back to. The drink itself is balanced: fresh because of the pine syrup, with intensity from the wormwood and gentian in the Rinomato and Mancino Chinato. And nothing’s more Christmassy than the smell of pine cones.
50ml Rinomato Aperitivo
20ml Mancino Chinato
20ml VII Hills Italian gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml Quaglia Pino Mugo liqueur
Prosecco to top
Don’t stir or shake the ingredients; throw them together, and top with Prosecco. Add a teaspoon of sugar syrup for sweeter palates. Serve in a highball glass, with redcurrants, pine and burnt pine cones for garnish.
These will work particularly well if you’re throwing an in-house party.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Christmas 2017