italian bitters

The bitter taste: the most appreciated in Italian cuisine

It is said that you are left with a bitter taste in your mouth after a disappointment or a defeat. So, why is the bitter taste so appreciated and so frequent in the Italian cuisine? Let’s discover togheter the Italian best digestive liquors and bitters.

The culture of bitterness:

The great variety of plants combined with the culture of wild herbs has influenced Italian taste and cuisine. In fact, Italians are more used to this flavor than other populations. Is because of the ability to merge popular and peasant tradition, which had to take advantage of the wild herbs offered by nature, with the food habits of the richest. For example, the ancient Romans used to consume large quantities of vegetables with a typical bitter taste: asparagus, artichokes, cardoons, chicory and radicchio. As well as olives and almonds. Although bitter differs from sweet or savory because its perception depends on each person’s receptors, in Italy it is one of the most used.

bitter liquors

The artichoke is used also for liquors.

Bitter flavor in the kitchen:

The main characteristic of olive oil and coffee, two typical Italian products, is bitterness indeed. In Lazio region, we have three varieties of olive oil with a particularly bitter taste: Carboncella, Frantoio and Raja. All three have hints of aromatic herbs, bitter almonds and artichoke. However, for coffee, many people prefer it without sugar, precisely because of its bitter taste. Also worth mentioning is chicory coffee. It became famous after the war and has antioxidant and digestive properties. Then, there is Chinotto which is a very famous italian non-alcoholic drink. It derives from the use of this super bitter citrus fruit and its success is due to its ability to quench thirst. And then, why not talk about the typical Roman Puntarelle? They are the shoots of Catalonia chicory and are usually served raw, accompanied by a sauce made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and salt.


The famous italian beverage Chinotto.

Bitter foods and health:

In the history of humanity, the bitter taste has always represented the warning to recognize a poisonous or dangerous food. However, in Italian cuisine, the bitter characteristic of a food was also linked to the concept of health and well-being. In fact, the most bitter vegetables, such as chicory, arugula, escarole, artichokes or radicchio, are among those that improve digestion. And the ancient Romans knew this well! They are also a source of many vitamins and detoxify the liver. Let’s not forget the good old pulses: grass peas, lupins and vetchling. Later, in Italian abbeys, the monks began to use wild herbs not only as medicines and anesthetics, but also in the production of liquors. Some are still produced today.

bitter arugula

The bitter flavor of the arugula is perfect in salads

The home of digestive bitters:

It is no coincidence that liquors and bitters are so famous in the Italian tradition. After all, we still appreciate them even today as excellent digestives. We usually serve the amaro as after dinner and sometimes mixed with coffee after the meal. Today it has become a real craze. Just think about the Spritz trend. One of the most famous Italian aperitifs which is usually served with the addition of Aperol or Campari, both with the typical bitter flavour. However, today Spritz is often served mixed with bitters or digestive liquors instead of the classic Aperol and Campari. Below is a list of the most loved bitters in Italy:

Cynar. Artichoke-based liquor created in 1948.

Vecchio Amaro del Capo. Calabrian recipe to be enjoyed frozen.

Fernet Branca. Famous bitter from Milan, composed of 27 herbs and spices.

Bitter Montenegro. Created in 1885 and composed of 40 different aromatic herbs.

Amaro Braulio. Originally from Valtellina, aged in oak barrels.

Amaro Averna. Sicilian bitter liquor with notes of honey, licorice, rosemary and bitter orange.

digestive amaro

The typical italian after dinner is the amaro.

The most famous liquors and bitters of Lazio region:

The difference between liquor and amaro lies in the production method. Of course bitter has a lower quantity of sugar. However, whether it’s liquor or bitter, the truth is that we just can’t give up that little glass at the end of the meal. Even in Lazio region the offer is wide. Let’s see together what are the most famous bitters and liquors of the region of Rome city!

Genziana. Obtained through maceration of the root of Genziana in alcohol and wine and then flavored with cloves and other spices.

Sambuca romana. Liquor produced by the distillation of star anise and fennel, together with various natural herbs. Also contains elderflower extracts.

Nocino liquor. Although not of Lazio origins, nocino is a liquor of central Italy. It consists in the maceration of walnut hulls in alcohol and wine for at least 40 days.

Formidabile. It is a bitter liquor born in Rome in recent years. It is obtained by hand through the cold maceration of aromatic and medicinal plants in grain alcohol.

Now you know everything about this particular flavor. Come on, all in all having a bitter taste in your mouth isn’t that bad, right?