Sipping La Dolce Vita

On the rocks, a citrus twist, a splash of fizz, it cin cin to Italian cocktails living La Dolce Vita on greeting card designs this summer, that have been distilled from escapism and the trend for home cocktail parties and sumptuously served in a sophisticated mid-century style. Stirring thoughts of sun-kissed, lemon-scented holidays on the Amalfi coast and balmy Tuscan nights filled with the song of chirruping crickets, take a sip of adventure and ‘the sweet life’ with this intoxicating, sleek and elegant design trend poured by greetings industry journalist, product photographer and promo filmmaker, Gale Astley.

Virtuoso filmmaker Federico Fellini put Rome at the centre of the world in 1960 with his film La Dolce Vita. Not only did the Oscar-nominated movie show glimpses of the beautiful old city, but it also revealed the bright and modern post-war Italy and ‘the sweet life’ of the 1950’s rich and glamorous Italian and Hollywood stars in the circles of café society.

Served with a touch of gilded nostalgia, life continues to be sweet for the societal elite of retro Italian cocktails in 2023, which have been shaking up the drinks market and are this year’s top tasty tipples.

We’ve admired Searching For Italy host Stanley Tucci mingling with a Martini, and Campari, the national drink of Italy and essential for the Negroni cocktail, collaborate with men’s fashion brand Percival to celebrate 10 years of Negroni Week this September. While the divine sunset apéritif Aperol Spritz, created in Veneto where Prosecco is made (and the birthplace of the Spritz), has been making a delicious splash in scores of cocktail lounges, roof bars and garden terraces this summer. And, always part of the fashionable jet-set, luscious greeting card cocktail designs and illustrations are rubbing shoulders with the glitterati of this vintage comeback in the same mid-century flavour and infusing the cinematic La Dolce Vita vibe.

Cocktails are extravagant, luxurious, a treat, and a symbol and promise of good times and good company. Beatrice Ferri, marketing manager for Eastend Prints, would even go so far to say that they decant a delicious imprint in our memory, proffering the perfect opportunity for greeting card sends. “Boozy drinks and cocktails are typically the omnipresent ingredient when it comes to social situations and celebrations – gathering with friends, throwing a birthday party, going on a date. Very rarely we join these instances and not a single drop of booze is in sight”, say Beatrice, adding, “A greeting card, artwork or a print displaying our favourite cocktail doesn’t only show we enjoy the company of our friends, but might remind us of that girls’ night a few years back having the time of our life, or when we met that special someone… and we let ourselves indulge in that sweet memory, over and over again!”

Of course celebratory drinks on card designs have been a sparkling success for many years. Ice-cold beers and chilled flutes of champagne have represented a salute to an effervescent myriad of special occasions. Then illustrations of a fruity bellini and herb-infused craft gin joined the party and became the toast of the town on cards.

Now, with the at-home cocktail market growing 44% year on year, and with mixologists calling recent times “the second golden age of the cocktail” (Prohibition being the first), card designs are tumbler-ing hard for these luxurious libations, and, for this summer at least, its ‘ti amo’ to the blends, fusions and fizz of vintage Italian botanical vermouths and bitters.

“The smoking ban, lockdowns and now inflation have all helped foster a home-drinking culture which in turn has helped nurtured the boom of people having soirees at home, just like they did in the 1950s. People look longingly back to the heady glamour of cocktail parties. Sharp suits, little black dresses, witty conversation, cool jazz…” reflects Sue Lee, director of card publisher Pennychoo. She jokes, “It beats 2-for-1 shots in a grotty town centre followed by a kebab and a fight at the minicab rank.”

And it’s this escape from the ongoing financial fraught times to the golden age of elegance and sophistication, passion and adventure that a summer in Italy promises… after all who wouldn’t want to scoot around Roma with Hepburn and Loren on Vespas, step out in Prada and Pucci haute couture and hobnob with the rich and beautiful of Capri? And quenching our thirst for this glamorous nostalgia are cocktail images on card designs in timeless mid-century graphics. “It is no coincidence that current cocktail illustrations on cards and art prints are shaped in that typical mid-century design as the graphics permeate style, and surely the music and cinema narrative of that era too,” states Eastend Prints’ Beatrice Ferri.

Reminiscent of 50s commercial prints and vintage magazine adverts, with flat, simple geometric shapes, vibrant saturated colours and crisp, clean lines, the Italian cocktail designs currently on cards take a big gulp of inspiration from mid-century graphic styles and the dawn of commercial flights and travel posters, movie sequences and film posters of the era. Garnished with retro typography, from curvelicious font to sans serif utilitarian lettering, add a dash of 2023 design aesthetic, and an intoxicating nostalgic cocktail of dreams to run away to exotic climes and carefree adventure is served in a La Dolce Vita highball.

“The past 25 years have seen more change than probably at any time in human history, so there’s something very reassuring and comforting about vintage design when everything is careering ahead at such breakneck speed. Mid-century design is often characterised by warm colours and a naive simplicity, a refreshing escape from today’s increasingly overwhelming choices and bewildering information overload,” reflects Pennychoo’s Sue Lee.

So take comfort and take a seat in the piazza this summer to sip the sweet Italian cocktail designs that are far more than just a happy hour on cards.

Pictured top: Lucy Loves by designer and printmaker Lucy Stephens, from Cath Tate Cards, serves 8 elegantly foiled classic cocktail designs bringing a touch of shiny fabulous glamour. On the grid: Summer sunset shades feature in Cai & Jo’s cocktail designs. The Negroni cocktail was invented by Count Camillo Negroni in Florence; Making a divine splash, an Aperitif design by Swiss designer Bureau Alice from publisher 1973; Percival x Campari’s neo-vintage menswear collection was launched to celebrate 10 years of Negroni Week (18-24 September ’23); Each of publisher Crispin Finn’s cocktail cards pours some interesting titbits about the drink featured, with the recipe printed on the reverse; Elegant mid-century simplicity, Pennychoo’s design celebrates at home soirees and cocktail parties; 1973’s Olive You by New York illustrator Jordan Sondler distils a sophisticated martini; Classic and chic, Stanley Tucci, master of the martini cocktail; Clean, sophisticated and timeless, an Aperol Spritz design by Fox & Velvet from Eastend Prints.


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