The secret to sprezzatura—Italian for being fabulous with no apparent effort—is usually a matter of doing the work, but in advance, when no one’s looking. You can skip the prep entirely, though, and still pull off an impressive cocktail hour just by stocking a few sexy Italian spirits. Fernet-Branca, Cynar, and Aperol are a good start since the distillers have done the heavy lifting, and you need only add a splash of mix to transform them into smart cocktails.
Take the edge off dark, earthy, and bitter Fernet-Branca with a couple of ounces of cola over ice. The two mingle together to create a caramel-and-vanilla, soda-fountain classic that’s dry and refreshing.
Artichoke-based Cynar may sound like an odd spirit, but its lovely bittersweet flavour is made even more delightful with the addition of fresh grapefruit juice and club soda, or a commercial grapefruit soda such as Ting.
Persimmon-hued Aperol is a little less sharp than Campari, its better-known relative, and makes for easy-drinking tall cocktails just by adding a little fizzy Italian lemonade.