Drink like an Italian, not a bogan

There’s a few things to learn from drinking Italian-style


Italians have a long history in Australia. As early as the Eureka Stockade there’s been an Italian presence, with many Italians migrating out during the years of the gold rush. In 1885 a group of some fifty families migrated to Australia, setting up on the rivers of northern new South Wales the town they called New Italy. And many would take up residence in the cane growing areas of Queensland.

But it was after World War II that the great wave of Italian migration occurred: in 1947 there were around 33,000 people of Italian descent in Australia, but after the great boom in the 1950’s and 60’s, that figure had risen by 1971 to nearly 290,000.

There’s no doubt that our palates are better off for it. It’s a cliché to rattle off the list of foods that came with Italians to this country and have become a part of daily life across all parts of the community, but perhaps there’s a few things that could become more ubiquitous still.

“The culture in Europe and Italy is very different to here,” said Davide Bernacchia, bar manager at Sydney’s Goldfish. “Its generally a family thing, with many families — my own included — making their own wine, grappa and liqueurs,” he said.


Harlem on Central’s Davide Zanardo also sees this difference between cultures. “In Italy we have a different way to enjoy the drinks. It is very influenced from the food and the time of the day.”

In Australia, the culture (if you believe the papers) is to go out, go hard, get drunk. But in Italy, a drink is part of a meal, ancillary to company.

That’s been Bernacchia’s experience of drink in Italy. “Alcohol is made to compliment the meal and you drink to enjoy,” he said. “It’s a lot to do with the culture of families and friends getting together for celebrations and festivities. No one really drinks to get drunk,” he said.

Perhaps the chief ritual that has become well known among the bar trade is that tradition of aperitivo.

“There’s a huge culture for Aperitivo hour,” said Bernachhia. And again, food and drink go hand in hand. “Lots of charcuterie and cheeses to prepare the palate for a good meal,” he said. Aperitivo drinks don’t just prepare you for the meal ahead; they’re also light in alcohol by nature. Possibly the three most well-known classic cocktails to come out of Italy — the Negroni, Bellini, and Americano — have a lot less alcohol by volume than the drinks coming out of America. And even then, the drinks are often kept simple anyway; often the most dressing up that takes place is an accompanying espresso with a neat glass of grappa or liqueur — Italy, in addition to great wines, having a wonderful history of liqueurs as well.

Zanardo summarises the day in the life casual attitude to drink neatly; tiny little rituals: “We like our aperitivo before lunch or dinner, a nice glass of wine or a beer during the meal and an amaro or digestive to finish the meal,” said Zanardo. Sounds like the perfect day to us.

Here’s a few recipes to get you on your way.

Amaretto Corretto

Amaretto Coretto

1 espresso
1 glass of Disaronno Amaretto

At the end of a meal, why complicate things? Take your espresso, forget the sugar (as a bartender, you’re supposed to like bitter, right?). A little sweetness will come your way as you sip the Disaronno, to “correct” it, anyway.

Amaretto Tasting Note



30ml Campari
30ml Cinzano Rosso
30ml sparkling wine

Build over ice in a rocks glass.

This drink hails from Bar Basso in Milan, the city that is home of the aperitvo. Made when a bartender picked up the prosecco bottle instead of the gin, this a wonderfully refreshing – and light – drink to whet the appetite.

Campari Tasting Note

Limoncello Sidecar

Lemoncello Sidecar

40ml Brandy
20ml Limoncello di Capri
20ml lemon juice
Shake and strain into a coupe.

Sure, limoncello is good enough on its own. It’s more a drink of the south of Italy, where it is part and parcel of visiting friends and family, taken neat. But put some brandy with it, a little more lemon, and then you have something very special.

Lemoncello Tasting Note

Absinthe Italiano

Absinthe Italiano

30ml Molinari Sambucca Extra
15ml Absinthe
15ml maraschino liqueur
Stir over ice; strain into a cocktail glass.

This is akin to how old timer Harry Johnson supposed the Italians took their absinthe, based on his travels throughout Europe. And there’s nothing wrong with this way, the addition of Sambucca drives home the anise character.

Molinari Tasting Note

Fernet Americano

Fernet Americano

30ml Fernet Branca
30ml Carpano Antica Formula
90ml soda water
Stir the Fernet and vermouth over ice, transfer to a hip flask. Add soda water and store.

Everyone knows the Americano. Equal parts ross vermouth and Campari, top with soda water. But something magical happens when you switch in Fernet for Campari; it’s bracing bitterness is tamed a little; the digestion gets going.

Fernet tasting note




Tuaca Affogato

30ml espresso
30ml Tuaca
1 scoop ice cream

Layer the ice cream into the rocks glass. Add espresso and liqueur.

Forget dessert; drink liqueurs. There’s something old-timey about taking a liqueur after dinner, but it’s simple and should be done more often. And if you simply must combine ingredients, put a little coffee with some quality ice cream and take a pass on the cake.

Tuaca Tasting Note

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