Summer Fun With Italian Cocktails

Italy has played a huge part in reinforcing the appeal and glamor of cocktails. The cocktail trend really took off in the fifties, and Italy with its deep sense of fashion and design was perfectly suited to the ritual of cocktail preparation, with careful attention paid to the best glass to serve the drink. Italians welcomed the latest drink trends from the U.S., but Italy also brought innovation and flair, creating new cocktail recipes, leaving a legacy for future generations.

Sbagliato – the Summer Cocktail That Began as a Mistake
This refreshing cocktail is an inspired variation of the classic Negroni and supposedly wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Negronis are a sweet and bitter cocktail of gin, Campari, and vermouth. The drink is great with just about everything. If there is any drawback, it’s that they tend to pack a bit too much of a punch, especially during the hot summer months. As wonderful as the cocktail is, you’ll find that soon your taste buds will somewhat dulled by the bitterness, so as a pre-dinner drink, you may find that the subtleties of your appetizer will be lost after a drink or two of a Negroni.

As an alternative, try a sbagliato negroni, which is still quite lively, but at the same time, less heavy.

Sbagliato is Italian for “mistaken,” and legend has it that the cocktail was invented by an Italian bartender in Milan’s Bar Basso, who grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine, instead of gin, while creating a negroni. Some may doubt the story, while others ask what the bartender had consumed before preparing the drink. After all, you wouldn’t expect the gin to bubble in a Neroni!

One thing is for certain, by substituting sparkling wine for gin, the negroni is transformed into a very refreshing pre-dinner cocktail, perfect when you’re “down the shore”. The sbagliato gains a crispness from the wine’s effervescence and loses some of the bitterness of the gin. It’s also a perfect excuse to open some Cava, Asti Spumanti, or Prosecco (preferred).

Because there isn’t a high alcohol concentration in the drink, you can have more than one and still stay on your feet.


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz vermouth
  • 4 oz Prosecco

Add the Campari and vermouth in an ice-filled tumbler, then add the sparkling wine and give it a quick stir. Add a citrus peel for garnish and you have a wonderful refreshing drink, sure to please again and again.

One of the all-time classic Italian cocktails is the Bellini, a mix of peach puree and sparkling wine. An interesting variation to intensify the peach flavor is by adding peach brandy. For the cooler months, you can mix prosecco with a mulled cider syrup and fig vodka.

The Classic Bellini

  • White peaches
  • 2 oz Fresh peach purée
  • 4 oz Prosecco

Pour peach puree into chilled flute, add Prosecco. Stir gently. It should be served straight up (without ice) in a champagne flute.

If you want to enjoy a cool refreshing drink in the afternoon, evening, or even between dinner courses, try Sgroppino—a slushy combination of lemon sorbet, vodka, and prosecco. It is common in Italy as a palate cleanser, a dessert, or a pre-dinner drink. Whisking the ingredients together creates a chilly, frothy libation.

In Venice, your waiter might make Sgroppino at your table by beating the sorbet and wine into a mixture as refreshing as whipped snow. In a bowl, whisk lemon ice cream until smooth. Gradually whisk (do not use a blender) in the vodka and sparkling wine or Prosecco. Don’t whisk too much or it will become too liquid.


  • 1 cup chilled Prosecco
  • 2 tablespoons chilled vodka
  • 1/3 cup frozen lemon sorbet
  • ¼ teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pour the Prosecco and vodka into 2 champagne flutes, diving equally. Spoon a scoop of sorbet into each flute. Sprinkle with mint and serve immediately.

The Angelo Azzurro Martini
The Angelo Azzurro’s (blue angel) origin is rather obscure. One story describes the drink as a variation of the Blue Lagoon cocktail. The Angelo Azzurro had been almost exclusively in Italy since the 1990s. Popular in clubs, it is becoming better known in the U.S., but is still a novelty for many. This attractive drink packs a bit of a wallop, so it is better as an after dinner cocktail.


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • ½ oz Blue Curacao

Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well. Stain and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon rind.

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