When it starts to get so hot, I mean so hot and humid in Italy that you can’t enjoy normal refreshment, that’s where summer drinks in Italy make their appearance.
Granita : Icy Sicilian Drink
Just sugar, water and flavorings (like fresh fruit and juice), granita is an icy treat that is even better than gelato / ice cream in the summer. Much more refreshing and usually served with a straw and a spoon, so you can decide if you want to spoon it out or suck it up. Granita varies in consistency from an icy slush to more like a sherbet.
The best granita comes from Sicily, and more specifically Messina (see the granita I had for breakfast this past summer) but granita is found throughout Italy at many gelaterie and bar.
and check out some granita recipes from fellow bloggers:
- Simple Lemon Granita from Pinch My Salt
- Espresso Granita Affogato Recipe from David Lebovitz
- Granita di Caffè from Over a Tuscan Stove
- Granita di Caffè with Cardamom from Lucullian Delights
Grattachecca : Italian Shaved Ice
Not to be left out is grattachecca, which is not that different from granita in appearance but its flavoring is added when the drink is being prepared. It’s like shaved ice – the ice in a large block and is shaved by hand using a metal scraper and then flavored syrups are added to it, and is eaten with a spoon. Shelley from At Home in Rome posted this pic from my favorite grattaccheca in Rome which also adds fresh fruit!
Caffè Shakerato and Iced Coffee Drinks
It’s summertime, but that doesn’t mean that we still don’t need our fix as caffeine addicts! Perhaps an espresso or cappuccino are too hot to contemplate on a sweltering Italian morning, so caffè freddo (cold espresso) and caffè shakerato are two great alternatives. Most bars offer both, so just ask.
Caffè freddo is served differently at each bar, but varies from already brewed espresso kept in the fridge to espresso that is brewed that instant and then served simply over ice.
Caffè shakerato is shaken in a cocktail shaker and often served in a wide-mouth glass like a martini glass. It’s fresh-brewed espresso shaken with ice and sugar (or sometimes directly with a simple syrup) so it gets cool and very frothy and creamy. I like to add Bailey’s to it (you must request this when ordering).
PS: Don’t make the mistake of trying to italianize “shakerato” – it is pronounced shake like milkshake.
From other food bloggers:
- cold-brewed iced coffee from smitten kitchen
- caffe’ shakerato from The Food Section
- caffe’ shakerato from the Kitchn
Make sure you also read my post on How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy
Frullati and Frappé : Fruit Smoothies and Shakes
While some may bemoan the lack of a Jamba Juice or similar juice bar presence in Italy, they are not lacking in fruity drinks. You’ll find frullati (sing. frullato), simple blended drinks of fruit (fresh or frozen), especially in gelaterie or bars where you can find macedonia, fruit salad. Another option is a frappé, which is fruit mixed with milk and/or sometimes gelato. These drinks are always made in a blender, differently from granita which is pre-made. There is a famous frullati place in Rome that I often went to when I lived there.
You’ll just have to add your protein-antioxidant-energy boosters yourself.
Acqua e Menta: Water and Mint / The Original Italian Soda
Acqua e menta could be considered the original Italian soda and probably is the inspiration for the popular Italian-American version – flavored syrup is added to sparkling or still / non-carbonated water. This is a classic summer drink, that often people drink in the office, too, as they bring a bottle of flavored syrup to work for everyone and just add it to the water they get from the water cooler.
The mint is almost always a “realistic” dark green color, but you can forgive them that or make your own at home. Other popular flavors include: orzata (barley), amarena (black cherry), mandorla (almond) and lampone (raspberry). You can find sciroppo (syrup) like these (try Fabbri) in most supermarkets as well, and they are considered dissetante – thirst-quenching drinks.
This is a simple drink, so it’s usually served without ice, but with very cold / refrigerated water as the base. I think Italian Soda seen often in America must be an interpretation of the acqua e menta with carbonated/sparkling water, and the Italian Cream soda the latte e menta (milk and mint) version which is sometimes drunk throughout the year.
What do you drink when summer comes around?
Thanks to Shelley at At Home in Rome for use of the frullati and grattachecca pictures.