It feels as if Italicus has been on the market for decades because you see it in so many bars and restaurants. And also, on social media, it seems that everyone knows the citrusy liqueur.
However, the actual launch of Italicus was in September 2016. -At the prestigious Savoy Hotel in London, spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo presented his new creation.
Only one year later, the victory march took shape. In 2017 at Tales of the Cocktail, Italicus won the Best new Spirit award.
Tales of the Cocktail is probably the most important yearly event in the bar scene. After this award, it was only a matter of time until Italicus Rosolio the Bergamotto would be found in bars all around the world.
What exactly is Italicus?
Italicus is a light, sweet, and floral citrus liqueur of 20% ABV, inspired by an old Rosolio di Torino recipe. Rosolios are rose liqueurs and have a long tradition in Italy. Oftentimes, they are served as aperitivos.
The full name of the liqueur is Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto. And technically, Italicus actually is more of a citrus liqueur than a Rosolio because the main ingredient isn't rose petals but Bergamot oranges.
The liqueur is sold in a beautiful bottle design of blue-green color. It immediately catches your attention and reminds you of a fancy Gin bottle rather than a citrus liqueur.
The Story of Italicus liqueur
Before Giuseppe Gallo presented his creation in 2016, he worked on the recipe for more than 15 months. He took inspiration from a Rosolio di Torino recipe he found in the book Liquorista Pratico.
When he first tried the recipe, the result was rather disappointing. However, driven by the idea of bringing back the tradition of Rosolio liqueurs, Gallo created his own version of the recipe.
To reflect the origin of the ingredients in Italicus, Gallo used only local ingredients. Furthermore, he decided to design the bottle accordingly. Both shape and color, are inspired by the picturesque Amalfi coast.
Ingredients in Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
The main ingredient of Italicus is Calabrian bergamot oranges, not Roses as you perhaps might have thought. Those oranges are harvested from a protected area of origin.
But you also can't deny the intensely floral aromas and flavors brought into the liqueur by rose petals and other flowers.
The list of ingredients in Italicus includes Calabrian bergamot oranges, lemons from Sicily, yellow rose petals, melissa lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, gentian root, and natural beet sugar.
To capture the beautiful aromas and flavors of the citrus fruits, Gallo applies a process called sfumatura. Sfumatura or slow-folding is an old technique for extracting essential oils of citrus fruits by hand.
This technique is time and labor-intensive but still achieves the best results. No mechanical processing can match the quality of the resulting oils.
But oil extraction is not the only key to success for Italicus. Because to bring as much flavor as possible into the liqueur, all ingredients need to macerate for ten days. Only after maceration beet sugar, a neutral grain spirit, and water are added.
The taste of Italics liqueur
Italicus has a delicate floral nose with some herbal notes in the background. You can smell roses and orange blossoms and hints of rosemary.
On the palate, Italicus is full of citrus flavor, grassy notes, sweetness, and slightly bitter notes coming from gentian roots. But this does not hide the fact that Italicus is first and foremost a rather sweet liqueur.
Overall the orange taste is less pronounced than one might expect. It still exists but blends perfectly with the other citrus, herbal, and floral notes.
The flavor profile is hard to compare with anything else. And if you want to replace Italicus, you'll have a hard time finding a perfect substitute. Your best bet might be using St. Germain elderflower liqueur. But still, this is not an ideal choice.
How to drink Italicus
You can drink Italicus neat, but that's not the way you typically want to enjoy this sweet liqueur. Mostly you will encounter it in cocktails or mixed with another alcoholic ingredient like Prosecco.
Also, on the Italicus bottle, you'll find a suggestion to mix it with chilled Prosecco. The recipe advises using 1 part Italicus for 1 part Prosecco.
Frankly, that's far too sweet for me -and for many other people, as well. Try to use 1 part Italicus per 3 (or even 4) parts Prosecco, and you'll have a much more enjoyable drink.
You can also combine Italicus with a citrusy IPA (India Pale Ale). For that, you need 4 parts of beer with 1 part Italicus and a dash of bitters. The result is a light-bodied, refreshing, and creative aperitif.
Mostly, though, you will find Italicus in cocktail recipes. And that only makes sense as the unusual flavor combination of Italicus makes for some interesting flavor combinations.
Italicus in cocktails
In the past few years, countless riffs on traditional recipes began using Italicus to bring new flavors into old recipes.
Below are some of my favorite drink recipes using Italicus.
1 oz Aged gin
0.75 oz Campari
0.75 oz Dry Vermouth
0.25 oz Italicus
To make this Bergamot Negroni add all ingredients into a mixing glass with plenty of ice and stir until chilled.
Then strain over ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a bergamot orange peel.
The mastermind behind this recipe is Naren Young. Young is the creative director of famed NYC bar Dante and created this drink in 2019 to serve in the aforementioned bar.
Tastewise, this drink is a drier Negroni variation with delicate hints of bergamot oranges. Italicus adds a subtle yet complex depth to the recipe. Easily one of my favorite Italicus cocktails.
1 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Italicus
1 oz Dry Vermouth
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with plenty of ice and stir until chilled.
Then strain over ice into a rocks glass before serving.
The Negroni Bianco literally translates to White Negroni. But the recipe here is a bit different from the original.
The combination is quite dry and offers wine-like minerality. The fresh and citrusy notes of Italicus harmonize perfectly with the botanicals from the Gin.
1.25 oz Italicus
1oz Dry Vermouth
1 Dash Rhubarb bitters
Add Italicus and Dry Vermouth into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. After that, strain into an ice-filled glass wine glass.
That is a super light and refreshing aperitivo cocktail. First served at Paradiso bar in Barcelona, the Olimpo is a prime example of the sophisticated aperitifs you can make with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto.
2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Italicus
1 oz Lime juice
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass rimmed with fleur de sel.
The Margariticus is another example of the versatility of the liqueur. The combination of smoky Mezcal and sweet and floral Italicus works a treat.
If the taste is too tart for you, you can add a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar to the recipe.