Chinotto: A Hate Letter to an Italian Beverage

I have no loving words to bestow upon chinotto.

To me, it is an Italian drink without redemption.

Chinotto is baffling. Deeply bitter, darkly colored, and too lightly carbonated, I can’t stomach the liquid for long enough to find any complexity in its flavors.

The drink is made with the fruit of a chinotto tree – a tree I never knew existed and could happily have lived my life in blissful ignorance of its presence.

A type of citrus, the tree is found in Northern Italy, from whence the drink originates. Even the plant itself is unattractive and shrubby – possibly foreshadowing the undesirable nature of its fruit and the inedible nature of the resulting drink.

Chinotto is supposedly refreshing. It is supposedly a good alternative to orange juice.

But I hate it with a burning passion. I hate it more than fette biscottate!! (And for the record, I hate those stupid toast-shaped-cookies quite a lot).

Chinotto and I clearly got off on the wrong foot, and our relationship has been in unsalvageable.

I first tried chinotto accidentally. Scanning the shelves of my neighborhood supermarket, I discovered what I believed to be a discount cola.

I took the dark liquid home and heard the satisfying hiss of fizz when I opened the bottle. As I started unpacking my other groceries, I took a casual sip and then, cartoon-style, I ran to the sink and spit it out as quickly as possible.

Hard pass.

Italy has a long and happy love affair with bitter beverages. From the campari that colors a spritz to the amari that are served after dinner. Yet, that acrid memory of chinotto remains burned in my sensory memory even while I enjoy those other drinks.

I will take a vaffancola over a chinotto any day.

Have you tried this Italian drink? Are you a convert? Then go ahead: try to convince me!

11 Comments

  • Reply Tony Staffaroni August 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Now I want to try to it see for myself if it is as bad as you say. I am guessing I cannot find it in the US. I will have to wait for my next trip to the bel paese to take the taste test. 🙂

  • Reply Chipo August 8, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    I had my first taste last night. I only took a sip because I thought it was high in caffeine..( caffeine makes me sick) I managed to swallow it so I actually think I don’t mind it. Now I want to really it…🙂.

  • Reply Lindsay August 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Tony, you can find it here in the US. Mainly just at specialty stores, and proper Italian cafes. While I don’t share the hate for Chinotto, I will admit it is an acquired taste… and definitely will agree that if you take a sip thinking it’s going to be cola like, you’re going to be in store for quite a surprise. I LOVE amari, but I’m only so-so on this effervescent beverage. I’ve had it a couple times, but it doesn’t quite have enough personality, flavor wise, for me to really ever reach for it again. My two cents.

  • Reply Robert August 8, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I have been going part time every year to Rome for 39 years since my full year physics postdoc experience and I have frequently been offered these weird foul tasting aperativo drinks over the years which I always try to avoid. Chinotto is at the top of the list. When the lunar eclipse grabbed our attention a few weeks ago in Rome, our long time friend with whom we had had dinner offered us that orange aperativo drink you often see people drinking in large red wine glasses at outdoor seating in cafes in the late afternoon in Rome, I don’t know what it is called. She mixed it with a few other things, so that when I tasted it initially, I realized I could down the whole thing without making faces, but politely declined a refill. I just don’t get this love affair with medicinal tasting liquids! But in the spirit of tolerance, let them drink what they wish!

  • Reply carla alessandro August 8, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Moretti makes an alcoholic chinotto flavored beer – I would recommend trying it! It tastes a bit like root beer with a kick 😊. The anziani love chinotto for some reason – I think it’s a generational thing. And the fette biscottate…. my partner loves them in the morning – apparently it’s like a digestive biscuit.. but have I have not yet acquired the taste for these… (what taste?) … especially with all the not-so-healthy delicious cornetti options available!

  • Reply Sue August 8, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    It is stocked in some supermarkets in Australia. Personally, I love it but then again, I am a huge fan of bitter sweet anything.

  • Reply Len Corsetti August 9, 2018 at 1:23 am

    Tony, It’s available in the U.S. at Italian markets. Multiple brands. See my photo in the “An American in Rome” Facebook posting on this. If you can’t find it and have to ask: If the clerk is Italian, make sure you say “Key-notto”. If the clerk is not Italian, you might want to ask for “Chee-notto”.

  • Reply Sarina August 13, 2018 at 6:44 am

    I first tried it when I was 8 years old and visiting relatives in Sicily(from Australia). We were visiting a neighbour and she gave me this big glass of brown fizzy drink. Like you I thought it was coke. No, no it wasn’t. It was the dreaded Chinotto. My dad told me I had to drink it all or it would be rude.(brutta figura and all that rubbish). Never touched it again.

  • Reply Jan August 15, 2018 at 6:33 am

    I like Chinotto. I don’t love it, but I like it, especially if it is a less commercial sort of brand (not that I can remember which ones), served over ice. It reminds me of summer. I also don’t find it that bitter. I like Aperol spritzes, too. Although I am getting to be an older American, I don’t think I am “anziana” yet and I know much younger Italians who like Chinotto, too. I have only ever had it in Italy. I never thought to look for it in the U.S.

  • Reply Jose September 3, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    i think chinotto is the liquid applied to joinery to give it the desired dark patina before the varnish is actually applied. now just where did i hear of that before?

  • Reply Stefano October 11, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    dove si trova l’agrume chinotto in nord italiaaaaaaaaaa??? gli agrumi crescono solo nel sud italia

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