How do you disrupt a drinking culture that dates back to the 5th century? Well, by reviving a category of aperitif that was popular back in the 15th century … obviously.
Five years ago, that was the gamble that Giuseppe Gallo took when he looked at the Aperitivo culture and decided to shake things up by creating his brand and his liquid called Italicus.
Based on an old recipe for Rosolio, a category that had almost disappeared and was now rarely produced commercially, Italicus burst into, what some would say, was an already crowded market. Yet the stunning sea-green bottle and its contents were not only able to charm but also inspire thousands of bartenders around the globe.
“The entire bar community across the world has supported Italicus and made it the brand it is today,” Gallo said. “They have helped us spread the word of the long-lost forgotten category but also to pave a way for new innovation in the space.
“It was always a risk creating and launching an independent brand in the way we did, but it has all been worth it. But it couldn’t have become the success it has without those that have believed in and supported us in every bottle, collaboration and unique idea. That support is the driving inspiration that keeps us innovating. Italicus is not just a brand for Italians but a brand for everyone.”
The entire bar community across the world has supported Italicus and made it the brand it is today
While the last five years have not been the easiest for the hospitality industry, Gallo wanted to celebrate what the brand has achieved by creating a book that honoured not only the brand but also the bartenders, artists, discerning drinkers and aficionados that have supported it since its inception.
“The book was written for dreamers and lovers,” explained Gallo. “People who are bold, who are creative, who strive for innovation and beauty in everything they do. It’s as much about those we are able to inspire today as it is about those we hope to inspire in future generations.”
With a distinctly Italian flair and a series of stunning visual representations of Aperitivo hour, the coffee table book sums up the narrative of the brand and its core values. As well as explaining the liquid’s signature ingredients by their providence, the book also reveals some of the first designs for the packaging and celebrates the graphic art created by the brand over the years.
Yet it is perhaps the recipes included that provide the true inspiration. “The book itself includes more than 50 cocktail recipes entwined with the story behind the brand’s concept and its development into a versatile and modern Italian aperitivo,” explained Gallo.
“Each page is filled with unique anecdotes, history to provenance and dives-in-deep into our carefully crafted natural ingredients from the north to the south of Italy, reflecting how we create our little ‘sip of Italy’ in every bottle.”
Assembled and collected over the past half-decade, the recipes include signature serves that have been created both by the Italicus team and the brand’s creative community, including Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge winners’ recipes from 2017-2022.
“Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge is a creative competition that occurs annually for bartenders and inspired talent around the world,” explains Gallo. “We ask participants to take note of their surroundings and utilize the essence of ITALICUS to craft something truly spectacular.”
The book was written for … people who are bold, who are creative, who strive for innovation and beauty in everything they do.
And creating something spectacular has been at the heart of the Italicus ethos and something that Gallo saw as being an important element throughout the book. “Each page is filled with the exact same passion I have for the Italian drinking culture, and my hope is that each reader is able to experience those traditions through our eyes and taste a genuine sip of Italy through each cocktail,” he said.
“From discovering the traditional recipe which dates back to the late 1800s, to wielding the confidence to experiment and introduce the brand to friends and family, Art of Italicus is a celebration of everything we hold dear. It’s about creating memories and trying new things while honouring the past and finding your own place in the Italicus story.”
While the brand is steeped in history and tradition, Gallo is quick to point out that as a modern brand, Italicus is all about pushing the limits. “Whether that is through innovative flavour combinations or unique collaborations that honour art in all its forms, we will continue to bring passion, creativity, tradition and art together.
“We look to inspire, innovate and intrigue our consumers in new ways,” he continued, “and create a space for which every Italian, based in Italy or around the world, are able to feel connected to and take pride in.
There have been many that have paralleled the role of the bartender to that of an artist over the years. They say that through their hands, the bartender is in fact, every night, creating masterpieces through cocktails. But for Gallo, the analogy goes further than just the liquid and how that liquid is presented.
“With this Rosolio (the “dew of the sun”) and the way it shines through the bottle, creating fragments of physical and emotional art through the reflections,” he explains. “The shadows and memories it creates all around is the pure definition of art in a liquid form.
“Everything about Italicus screams art to me. We worked tirelessly on creating a bespoke bottle design, one stripped back to reflect Italian charm and elegance with meticulous detail going into every aspect. The aquamarine shorelines of Capri and the Amalfi Coast are transcended through the colour of the glass.”
It is not unexpected that the same creative agency, Stranger & Stranger, that created the bottle was the one that Gallo approached to create the book. “After working with Stranger & Stranger previously on our bottle design and many other projects in the last decade, I consider them now “partners in crime”, and I knew this was the perfect collaboration for the book.
“They understand our desire for tradition, creativity and innovation and were able to add that quintessential ‘Made in Italy’ stamp to the design,” he continued. “My brief was simple: I wanted to showcase what makes Italy one of the most unforgettable and inspiring cultures in the world – as ever, and they did not disappoint.
And what of the next five years? Gallo is looking to not only expands the brand’s distribution to new markets but also highlight its use of natural ingredients to ensure Italicus is at the forefront of the premium Aperitivo category.
He explains that the future of the brand will be about “utilising our unique ethos for crafting a modern Aperitivo from Italy. I strongly believe this innovation will be the brand’s legacy.”