Tuscan people are definitely wine drinkers. As in the rest of Italy, wine is part of the meal that is made of multiple courses (called antipasto, primo, secondo & dolce). At the end of lunch or dinner comes coffee (espresso which in Italy is usually called caffè) and right when you think the meal is finally over you might see people asking for ‘amaro’ (bitter) or ‘ammazza caffè’ (literally ‘coffee killer’). This is a tradition that goes back in time: the idea that high alcohol digestives, better if slightly bitter, will help digest heavy meals (in the past surely a way to kill off bad bacteria).Monks in the Middle Ages and after them pharmacists created various alcohol based drinks infused with herbs and fruits to reach a pleasant bitter-sweet taste (from which the word Amaro-Bitter); used as medicinal beverages in the past, they are now a pleasant way to end a big meal and get rid of the taste of coffe (killing it!) left in your mouth.
Here are some of the common ‘coffee killers’ in Tuscany.
Grappa: is the national spirit! It's distilled from the solid leftovers after winemaking (grape skins) and can be more or less aromatic depending on which type of grape varietal has been used (you will usually experience grappa on Grape Tours' Super Chianti tour after lunch at famous butcher Dario Cecchini!). Grappa is so important to Italians, that it has its own glass shape (see picture).
China and Biadina: These 2 were very popular in the olden days. Both made from the same plant ‘China’ (used as a treatment for malaria!), they have a beautiful dark amber color and balsamic taste. Biadina is traditionally served in Tuscan town Lucca with pine nuts floating on top.
Ponce: a ‘must’ in the Tuscan town of Livorno. Invented in the 1600's when Livorno was a free port and Inspired by the english ‘punch’. It's a mix of coffee, sugar and aromatised rum (called Rumme). Purists love it with a lemon zest at the end. Served very hot is the sensation of ‘punch in the face’ and you need to take a great siesta afterwards!
Sgroppino: You go for it when you’re not hungry anymore after eating too much seafood but you still crave something sweet and refreshing. It's lemon sorbet and vodka, stirred and served into a champagne glass.
Limoncello: This iconic spirit comes from the Amalfi Coast but you can order it everywhere in Italy. Mostly consumed in the summer, it must be kept in the freezer along with the little glasses you should serve it in.