What Sicilians Drink  

Cosa si Beve in Sicilia 


The most popular and preferred drink in all parts of  Sicily is water.  

It can be the water coming from the kitchen faucet or mineral bottled water either sparkling or natural made by one of the many local producers, or imported from far away places. 

However spring water that is fetched from the source is the real favored drink! 

Everyone has his secret source, either a well, a natural spring or a fountain; everyone clams that the water they go and get is the best in the world for certain specific qualities beneficial to one or more healthy conditions and because it contains minerals or substances helpful to the normal functions of the body. Some travel to the countryside to their secret spot to guaranty they and their family top quality water. Water is transported in large containers and used for drinking or cooking.
Some get the water from the local fountain where our ancestors were carrying it home before the installation of the plumbing facilities in the house; the water is carried home in large glass bottles and prized for the drinking qualities and used unfailingly to make coffee.  

In Palermo, my preferred water was the spring water at the fountain near the church of San Francesco, in the homonym square. 


At one time, in the many kiosks, in the local stalls or from street vendors, a glass of water could be bought with a few drops of a solution called zammu’ or zambu’, morphed from zanbucu or sammucu, the sambuco or elderberry flower.  

Originally zammu was an infusion of elderberry flowers with alcohol and sugar; today zammu is made with anice seeds.  

Now there are a few kiosks left only in the center of the old Palermo, in Piazza Massimo, Piazza Politeama and in Via Ruggero Settimo.  

In those kiosks bright colored syrups made with almonds, cherries, strawberries and mint are served along with fresh fruits juices.


The popular drinks of the old days are replaced with Coke, Pepsi, and 7up. 

The long-established “gazusa” or gassosa, are hardly available. The gassosa al limone is a carbonated drink made with lemon juice, whereas the aranciata is made with orange juice. 

The spumante is also a carbonated drink made with real coffee, put in a seltzer bottle and dispensed with a lot of foam. I loved it!  


Most of the Sicilians drink two types of coffee: the one made in the moka machine at home and the espresso at the bar. 

The espresso is usually drunk at the bar counter standing up, during a work break and at times when you invite a friend to join you for a fast coffee.  


When I left Palermo, in the fifties, there were many latterie, milk stores selling milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy. In the morning they served  acqua di gramigna, an infusion made with couch grass and believed to be the best remedy for renal problems in addition to relieve fever and also marba, an infusion made with malva, (the mallow), considered the best therapy for coughing, bronchitis and chronic catarrh.  

The price was very reasonable; it was served separately or in combination with a bit of milk. In via Alloro, across the street of the church of La Gancia, near my home, there was a latteria where every morning there was a long line of customers to drink the couch grass tea or the mallow tea. 

An old specialty that Sicilians used to drink on the hot days, before the coming of the refrigerators, was called sciala cori – joy of the heart- which consisted of ice and at one time the snow from the Etna or Nebrodi Mountains, mixed either with milk and honey or lemon juice and honey.  


Another drink no longer consumed was called cabbasisata. It was a drink considered an effective remedy for lung pleurisy, excellent tonic for the urinary system and an aphrodisiac. The cabbasisi, called the dado della tigre or mandorle di terra, in English tiger nut or earth almonds, were processed like almond and a milk like liquid was extracted and mixed with water. 

Today when people refer to cabasisi…it is a different story: because of the unique shape of the tiger nuts, the cabasisi the Sicilian expression non mi rompere i cabasisi”, means “don’t break my… chops”.  


From Fruits and Seed:

Anisette Rosolio

Limoncello Rosolio

Coffee Rosolio

Almond Rosolio


From Herbs and Extracts:


Mint Rosolio

My Mother’s Rosolio


Spices and Specialties:

Cinnamon Rosolio

Alkemes -Alchemes Rosolio

Bitter- Rosolio Amaro





Wine is a beverage that has been present on almost every dinner table going back to prehistoric times. 

For many thousands of years, wine has been produced in large quantities all over the island of Sicily. Wines are served in every Sicilian household, and some exported yearly to Tuscany, the Venetian provinces, and to France to fortify and give more body to their wines.  

Presently there has been a revaluation of the local varietals and many wineries have been producing fabulous red and white wines. 


Marsala wine, Malvasia from Lipari and Moscato form Pantelleria are premium dessert wines produced exclusively in Sicily

See chapters about Sicilian wines. 

Rosolio, homemade liquor is still made in some households and offered with pride to friend and guests. Lately rosolio of excellent quality is produced by small local artisan companies and available in liquor stores.  

Refer to the rosolio for additional details.  

The Amaro Averna, a bitter drink known world wide is prepared in Caltanissetta, the geographic center of Sicily,  This very famous and popular liquor is produced from the original recipe with an infusion of herbs, roots and citrus, dulcified with caramel syrup to create a gentle bitter-sweet after-dinner drink to conclude generous meal and to ease the digestion.     


   Amara Averna