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Yes, You Can Have Classic Italian Cocktails Without the Booze

09 May 2024
by Regan Hofmann
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Nonalcoholic versions of our favorite cocktails are not only possible, they’re just as good as the real thing.

It’s no secret we love the Italian tradition of aperitivo, the happy hour-style period before dinner when friends gather over a refreshing cocktail and a few salty snacks to kick off the evening. The cocktail is an integral part of the aperitivo experience, whether it’s the beloved negroni or a bubbly spritz. But how do you aperitivo if you don’t feel like drinking?

We have good news! If you’re a non-drinker—or just feel like taking it easy on the hard stuff for any reason—your options have never been better. The market for non-alcoholic drinks more interesting than just sodas and juices has grown tremendously over the past decade, and a new generation of sophisticated zero-proof beverages has emerged to meet the demand. Today, you can get non-alcoholic versions of every type of spirit, from tequila to whiskey to gin. There are de-alcoholized wines, real wines that are processed gently to remove the alcohol molecules, leaving the flavor behind. And there are new creations designed to recreate the cocktail experience in every way—just without the booze.

Below, we show you how to make our 5 favorite classic Italian cocktails as delicious, alcohol-free drinks that will fit in perfectly at any aperitivo hour.

Negroni

Negroni

The most iconic Italian cocktail, the negroni was invented in Florence more than 100 years ago. It’s a favorite for pre-dinner aperitivo sipping, with a strong bitter edge from bright-red Campari that is believed to stimulate the appetite. With equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, it’s also very easy to mix at home! A non-alcoholic version is just as easy; use an NA gin like Monday Gin, our favorite de-alcoholized vermouth by Greece’s Roots Divino, and an herbaceous, bitter Campari substitute like Giffard’s Aperitif Syrup.

For a sparkling Americano variation, simply mix 1 part “vermouth” with 2 parts Sanbittèr, a non-alcoholic amaro soda made by San Pellegrino and often available in Italian specialty grocery stores. The vibrant soda tastes just like fizzy Campari! Or, skip the mixing and buy the pre-bottled, carbonated Phony Negroni from Brooklyn’s St. Agrestis. Simply pour into a glass and garnish with an orange slice for an impeccable aperitivo moment. 

 

Bicicletta

Similar to a Campari spritz, the Bicicletta is another aperitivo favorite, so named because drinkers who have one too many of these can be spotted as they wobble their way home atop their bicycles. But instead of prosecco, the Bicicletta uses Campari and still white wine, which would have been more easily available to working-class drinkers outside of prosecco’s home region back in the day. Make it non-alcoholic with equal parts Campari alternative and a crisp de-alcoholized white wine, like Sovi Reserve’s Chenin Blanc, topped with a splash of soda. You won’t have to worry about wobbling home with this one!

 

Sgroppino

Sgroppino

This Venetian favorite is often served as dessert, a sort of light-and-fizzy twist on an affogato. Making it couldn’t be easier: just pour prosecco over a scoop or two of lemon sorbetto, or follow Giada’s lead and add a splash of vodka to make it more of a cocktail. 

Make it zero-proof with a de-alcoholized prosecco like Mionetto’s Alcohol-Removed Sparkling Wine, made in the traditional Veneto region by the well-known prosecco brand.  

 

Aperol Spritz

Italians love to tell you that you can spritz with almost anything, from extra-bitter amaros to zingy limoncello. The formula of 3-2-1 (3 parts prosecco, 2 parts liqueur, and 1 part soda water) can indeed be used to make any number of refreshing, sippable cocktails—and mocktails, too. But if you want to replicate the sunny orange hue and sweetly citrus-infused flavor of a classic Aperol spritz, turn to Lyre’s Italian Spritz. Made with orange and rhubarb, just like Aperol, it just needs a dose of soda water, “prosecco,” and a wheel of orange to transport you to a piazza in Padua.

   

Milano Torino

Milano-Torino

Casually referred to as a Mi-To, this ancestor of the Negroni was named after the cities of origin of its two ingredients: Campari, from Milano, and vermouth, from Torino. It was invented in the 1860s at the historic Caffe Camparino in Milan, which you can still visit to this day! Syrupy and bitter, it’s best served over ice, which will help dilute the two strong liqueurs—or liqueur alternatives. Make the non-alcoholic version using your Campari and vermouth substitutes and enjoy as a pre-dinner aperitivo sip.

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