Ah, Italy! A paradise on earth loved for so many things: its art, history, architecture, breathtaking landscapes, culture, the list could go on infinitely. One of the things that draw interest worldwide is its exquisite food and beverages, a tradition that goes back centuries. One of Italy’s most fascinating beverages is its spirits and liqueurs. So what are these so-called spirits?
An Italian meal is a feast in all senses that can be compared to a symphony. One that begins with an antipasto and closes magnificently with an ammazzacaffe, or liqueur. An all-Italian tradition that enchants and attracts people worldwide.
This is one of the reasons why a group of eight of Italy’s most historic and beloved producers decided to join in a consortium: The Spirit of Italy.
Since 2011 TSOI has found exciting ways to involve cocktail lovers, experts, and aficionados in the exciting world of distillers and historical liqueur-making companies.
These eight companies have the common goal to promote the historical tradition and culture of premium Italian spirits. It is an invitation to discover each of these companies’ history of commitment to the family business, paying homage to the artisanal recipes of their liqueurs, spirits, and digestive, and at the same time keeping up with today’s mixology trends and technologies.
The Spirit of Italy accurately represents the Italian lifestyle, a blend of culture, tradition, art, and pleasure, the beauty of “la dolce vita”.
The Spirit of Italy is composed of these nine Italian companies that have contributed to the history-making of this extraordinary nation:
Distilleria Moccia, established in Ferrara in 1946, produced their exquisite ZABOV, the very first Zabaglione liqueur. They also produce ZABOV CAFFÈ, created for adventurers and enthusiasts of a very Italian flavor: coffee and their ZABOV AL CIOCCOLATO, a unique chocolate-flavored experience.
Distilleria Cocchi, founded in 1891 in Asti produced the Cocchi Americano, a quinine-flavored aperitif wine. Distilleria Cocchi produces also a variety of liqueurs such as Cocchi Rosa, Storico Vermouth di Torino, and Barolo Chinato Cocchi.
Amaro Lucano founded in 1894, producer of the famous Amaro Lucano liqueur and a series of delightful liqueurs, inspired by typical Italian flavors: Caffè Lucano and Limoncello Lucano.
Luxardo was established in 1821 and produces the famous Maraschino Luxardo, a classic amongst liqueurs obtained from the marasca, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo.
Since 1779 Distilleria Nardini has been producing Italy’s finest grappa in Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto Region. Distilleria Nardini also produces a variety of liqueurs: Amaro Nardini, Acqua di Cedro Liqueur, Mandorla, an almond-flavored specialty spirit, and last but not least: Aquavite di Vinaccia Riserva, Grappa Riserva.
Pallini has been producing since 1875 its world-famous Limoncello, made from prized Sfusato lemons, exclusive to the Amalfi coast. Other liqueurs produced by Pallini are Peachello and Raspicello.
Established in 1860 in Benevento, Strega Alberti has produced its beloved Liquore Strega, a 100% natural product distilled from almost 70 herbs and spices coming from every corner of the world. From 65 years to this day, Toschi Vignola has produced its Fragolì, a versatile strawberry-based liqueur made completely from natural ingredients.
And last but not least, Distilleria Varnelli has been producing spirits since 1868 in the Marche region. Some of Varnelli products are Varnelli liqueur, Amaro Sibilla, and Amaro dell’Erborista.
Since its formation TSOI has hosted several events in different cities, carrying and sharing its exciting world. Some of TSOI’s most memorable events are An Edible Tour of Classic Italian Spirits, a series of encounters with Italian local flavors and traditions. Led by award-winning mixologists presenting tastings of the most historic and beloved spirit produced in Italy.
Since 2012, Tales of The Cocktail has toured through different locations presenting seminars, tastings, and mixology activities, successfully capturing attendees’ attention and interest. The West Coast Tour brought to cities such as Las Vegas and San Francisco TSOI’s finest Italian Artisanal liqueurs. Moreover, it presented seminars hosted by internationally famous mixologists.
From the lemony and fresh taste of Limoncello to the balanced, herbal, and bitter taste of Amaro. A wide variety of Italian-made liquors are usually enjoyed neat or mixed in a cocktail, some of them have a summery feeling, and others are enjoyed throughout the four seasons. These delightful drinks are obtained by infusing herbs, fruit, seeds, flowers, and roots in high-volume alcohol. Some of them are sometimes mixed with syrup to obtain a more sweet flavor or cream for a rich and decadent taste.
It is believed that alcohol-infused beverages go back to Hippocrates, the Greek physician from Greece’s Classic Period. These so-called “elixirs” were seemingly taken as remedies for different afflictions. These infusions were obtained from the distillation and infusion of herbs in alcohol.
This tradition continued throughout the centuries and diffused in different territories, but it was at the beginning of the 14th century that this practice was documented. Right before the celebration of his jubilee, the Pope suffered strong renal colic and was given an elixir to alleviate his condition: a distilled spirit obtained from an infusion of mixed herbs, and flakes of gold, considered to be the purest metal to which purifying qualities were attributed. The success of this beverage in curing the pontiff’s discomfort became a key in its rapid diffusion, even though it was still exclusively used as a healing treatment, accessible only through alchemist doctors and to the secluded abbey with pharmacies in their monasteries.
Fast forward to the 1500s, the Renaissance in Florence, Italy, when trendsetter Catherine of Medici married King Henry II of France, she brought with her some of the best Florentine food recipes, among them Florentine liqueurs. And thus, alcohol-infused spirits were produced in the French court in Paris, made with honey, herbs, lemon, and even rose petals. Quickly this practice diffused in many European courts, where sovereigns and nobles enjoyed these fascinating beverages. It was only a matter of time before this custom was adopted by merchants and commoners, popularizing these distilled delights.
Throughout the years, in Italy, the process of infusing liqueurs and spirits became a household practice. Each family had their own recipe, using local ingredients to create remarkable beverages, enjoyed on festive occasions or to conclude a meal. Cherished recipes are passed down from generation to generation, a tradition that is still alive today.
The Spirit of Italy intends to keep these historical traditions alive, combined with
their original promise: to honor, preserve and diffuse Italian traditions, and excellent work ethics while delivering premium and delightful liqueurs for the world to enjoy.