Italicus Cocktails: Elements - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Elements: Italicus

If amari are any indication, Italians have practically perfected the creation of spirits with a sense of place. And when it comes to warm-weather imbibing, Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto, a bergamot citrus–based liqueur from Torino, gives bitter-forward amari some serious competition. “It allows you to add a beautifully aromatic orange and nuanced herbal element to cocktails without necessitating infusions,” says Christopher Day, a bartender at San Francisco’s Bellota. “A little Italicus goes a long way, and its profile toes the line somewhere between an alpine herbal liqueur and curaçao.”

Italicus is a type of rosolio (“dew of the sun”), a liqueur historically made from a neutral base and a single dominant fruit, herb, or spice. In 2016, Italian bartender Giuseppe Gallo was inspired to create Italicus after discovering a 19th-century rosolio recipe calling for bergamot and cedro (citron), with botanicals like chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, and gentian. Gallo procures bergamot from Calabria—a region so celebrated for its citrus that the fruit has been awarded protected status—and the liqueur is produced at a historic family distillery in Moncalieri.

Are you a U.S. bartender? Click here to enter the 2024 Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge.

At an approachable 20 percent ABV, Italicus offers a juicy, citrusy profile with lush floral notes and a hint of bitterness. At Bellota, Day pairs Italicus with a Speyside scotch for Mr. Owl, his liquid homage to Tootsie Pops. “Italicus is a bridge between the earthy, fruity Scotch, the cacao elements, and the Earl Grey tea flavors in the amaro.” At La Moule in Portland, Oregon, manager Tom Lindstedt finds that the grassy characteristics of rhum agricole marry well with bergamot in his Costa Guarde cocktail. “Italicus invites partnership with spice and savory elements, and the addition of blanc vermouth tempers the agricole’s heat.”

“We fly through Italicus,” says Althea Codamon, beverage director of Aita in New York City. “We use it in spritzes, but it also finds its way into our signature cocktails for almost every spring and summer menu.” For Codamon’s Bouquets and Subways, lemon’s acidity is dialed down to let Italicus’ delicate characteristics shine.

“It’s a must for the home bar because it’s so versatile,” she says. “Although I usually just enjoy it on the rocks or with a splash of bubbles. And don’t forget the olives.”

Mr. Owl

“I wanted a playful nod to childhood [flavors],” says Day of his scotch-based cocktail. “I basically wanted it to be the equivalent of a chocolate orange wrapped in a Bobby Burns.”

1 1/2 oz. rich blended Scotch whisky or Speyside single malt (such as The Glenrothes)
1/2 oz. Italicus 
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Montenegro Amaro
1/4 oz. crème de cacao
2 dashes orange bitters

Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: teacup and saucer
Garnish: orange twist

Stir all of the ingredients with ice. Strain into a teacup, then express an orange twist over the drink to release its oils. Serve with the twist on the saucer as a garnish.

Christopher Day, Bellota, San Francisco

Bouquets and Sundays

For this botanically boosted gin sour, Codamon recommends a citrus-forward or other high-quality aromatic gin, such as Hendrick’s. “If you can find their specialty Lunar or Midsummer Solstice labels, the rose notes play wonderfully with Italicus.”

1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. blanc vermouth (such as Dolin Blanc)
1/2 oz. Italicus
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. fresh egg white

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: dried edible flowers (such as lavender, chamomile, and hibiscus), and pink peppercorns

Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker and shake without ice for 20 seconds. Add a generous scoop of ice and shake vigorously until the tin develops a thick layer of frost on the
outside. Double-strain into a chilled glass and sprinkle with dried flowers and pink peppercorns.

Althea Codamon, Aita, New York City

Costa Guarde

A hint of smoky Islay scotch “adds another coastal influence to a drink with a rhum agricole and Italicus base,” says Lindstedt.

1 1/4 oz. high-proof rhum agricole blanc (such as La Favorite)
3/4 oz. Italicus
1/2 oz. blanc vermouth (Lindstedt uses C. Comoz)
1/2 oz. verjus blanc
1 dash absinthe
1 dash Islay single malt Scotch whisky

Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: lime twist

Stir all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into the glass and garnish.

Tom Lindstedt, La Moule, Portland, Oregon

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend