Lyre’s Italian Orange Review: Non Alcoholic Bitters vs Campari and Aperol

non alcoholic bitters

Lyre’s is based out of Australia and claims to offer “Impossibly Crafted Non-Alcoholic Spirits.” Italian Orange is their attempt at non-alcoholic bitter aperitif.  Lyre’s Italian Orange was tested in several brand recommended mocktails and some classic cocktail substitutes. It was also compared against two popular Italian bitter aperitifs – Campari and Aperol. 

Italian Orange is much sweeter than it’s alcoholic counterparts, and therefore not considered an exact substitute for Aperol or Campari. However, mixed with the right ingredients, certain cocktail substitutes can be achieved, like a non alcoholic spritz.    

Lyre’s bottles are really fun. Each of their spirits has a great label with unique design and clever quotes. They are a fun addition to any home bar shelf. Italian Orange is not produced like alcohol, as it is not distilled, but made by blending natural essences and extracts, with a focus on mimicking the flavor of Aperol or Campari.

When evaluating non-alcoholic spirits, I believe it’s interesting to note how the brands are making their products. At the end of the day, if the product tastes like the real thing and makes great mocktails, it doesn’t really matter how that is achieved.

While it isn’t considered a low sugar mixer, Italian Orange still has less calories than both Aperol and Campari, when used in similar quantities in mocktails. Read more below for the full testing of Lyre’s Italian Orange, with photos and recipes tested.

Best enjoyed in: Lyre’s Italian Orange and Tonic

How is it made: Lyre’s blends natural extracts and essences to create all of their non-alcoholic spirits, including Italian Orange. 

Ingredients, Nutrition, and Storage

In order to thoughtfully review a product, it must be tested. Here’s the method taken for taste testing all non-alcoholic drinks:

What does Lyre’s Italian Orange taste like… 

  1. Neat
  2. On ice
  3. On ice with tonic or appropriate single mixer
  4. Brand recommended mocktails
  5. Get creative

#1 Neat: 

Italian Orange smells like blood orange. It tastes very sweet with a very slight bit of pith at the end.

#2 On Ice: 

A tad bit brighter, but Italian Orange is mostly the same on ice as it tasted neat. 

#3 With Tonic: 

Italian Orange and Tonic is actually a brand recommended mocktail, so I used their suggested proportions (2oz Italian Orange: 4oz tonic water). This tastes a lot like an Aperol spritz: refreshing and slightly bitter. Something seems to be missing though, so I explored this further in the section below testing non alcoholic Aperol spritz substitutes. 

#4 Brand Recommended Mocktails featuring Italian Orange: 

Here are some brand suggested mocktails featuring Italian Orange and what they actually taste like: 

Lyre’s Negroni

non alcoholic Negroni with lyres

Ingredients:

  • 30ml (1oz) Lyre’s Dry London Spirit
  • 30ml (1oz) Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso
  • 30ml (1oz) Lyre’s Italian Orange

Directions:

Stir briefly over a fresh ice cube in an Old Fashioned glass. 

Verdict: Lyre’s Negroni is not a suitable substitute for a Negroni. It’s too sweet, but perhaps a fine non-alcoholic aperitivo. It just doesn’t taste like a Negroni. Still, it was fun to craft a classic mocktail with a large ice ball. 

Lyre’s Americano

non alcoholic americano

Ingredients:

  • 30ml Italian Orange
  • 30ml Aperitif Rosso
  • 90ml Premium bottled tonic water*
  • *used Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water

Directions: Build over ice in a highball glass and stir. 

Verdict: This was first tested in the review for Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso. After trying a few versions, this brand recommended mocktail proved to be a great substitute for an American cocktail.

Lyre’s Boulevardier: Originally tested in a comparison of non-alcoholic whiskeys, I determined that if you hadn’t had alcohol in a while, Lyre’s Boulevardier smells and tastes like a memory of a boulevardier, not like an exact substitute. This is more of a whiskey cocktail, but usually Campari cuts through it, added a balanced bitterness. Because Italian Orange is sweet, this non-alcoholic Boulevardier did not have much of that bitter quality.

#5 Get Creative:

Since Lyre’s seems to be using Italian Orange in similar ways as Campari and Aperol, I thought it might be interesting to compare the taste of all three, side by side, then make a couple mocktails. Here are the notes from that taste test: 

Campari – Yum! At first it is sweet, but then very bitter. Bitter and delicious. The bitterness lingers in the back of your tongue. It took me a long time and a lot of cocktail tasting to get here, but I love Negronis, Campari, and a bitter aperitif.  

Aperol – The Aperol is sweeter than the Campari. I tasted sweet orange, followed by grapefruit. It has a bitter finish, but that tastes more like the pith (white part inside peel) of a grapefruit. You can make a spritz out of Campari, but Aperol is much nicer. It is lighter and brighter. 

HOW DOES LYRE’S ITALIAN ORANGE COMPARE TO CAMPARI AND APEROL?

taste test Campari vs aperol vs lyres Italian orange

Italian Orange tastes very sweet, and there’s a very slight bit of pith at the end, especially if you swish it around your mouth. Not that you would probably do that, unless you were tasting it.  It is A LOT sweeter than the others, so I don’t think it can really be a substitute for Campari or Aperol in the same ratios in non-alcoholic classic cocktails. However, perhaps with the right combination of flavors, you can get something similar. 

What makes Aperol and Campari so bitter? The recipes for these two Italian aperitifs are extremely guarded. Campari is likely bitter from the use of Chinotto citrus fruit, which is bitter and sour. Interestingly, Campari used carmine dye from cochineal insects, and that dye was responsible for Campari’s dark color, but in 2006, they started using artificial coloring.

Aperol gets its bitterness from the combination of herbs, fruit and plants like rhubarb, gentian, and cinchona. Italian Orange seems to get its bitterness from the bitter orange flavoring and artificial coloring.

As for the nutrition facts, compared to the calories in Campari and Aperol, Italian Orange has fewer. In a 2oz serving, Italian Orange has roughly 46 calories. For the same serving size, Campari has about 160 calories and Aperol has 63 calories. Lyre’s Italian Orange isn’t the lowest calorie non-alcoholic spirit I’ve tasted, but it still has less calories than is usually in alcohol. 

NON ALCOHOLIC APEROL SPRITZ

Traditionally, an Aperol Spritz is made with prosecco, Aperol, and club soda, with an orange or grapefruit garnish. Aperol was created in 1919 in Padova, Italy, but the Aperol Spritz slowly grew in popularity over time. At one point, the company began marketing it as a healthy choice for people to stay lean and fit! It takes me to afternoons in Italy every. time. If you haven’t had the opportunity to go to Italy, just have an Aperol Spritz. Same same! 

I love an Aperol Spritz, and I really want to find a great substitute for one of the best non alcoholic Italian drinks there is. After tasting the Italian Orange and Tonic, I felt something was missing, so I wanted to experiment a little more.

First, using the orange + tonic as a base, I added verjus, which made it too sweet. Then I topped it off with club soda to make it more bubbly, and that just watered it down. I ended up with a large glass of sweet water…

Then, I started over, trying to make a non-alcoholic prosecco from verjus and club soda to use as the base. Then I layered in Italian Orange. That still didn’t hit it. So…For now, the closest thing to a non alcoholic Aperol Spritz is Lyre’s Italian Orange and Tonic. Add an orange wheel and you’re ready for aperitivo!

tasting versions of non alcoholic spritz
non alcoholic spritz ingredients

If you love spritzes like me, you should also check out the Kin Spritz. It’s a ready-made spritz in a can.

After the spritz test, I tried a low ABV cocktail to see how Italian Orange might perform mixed with Amaro. Here’s what I attempted:  

Paper Plane (Low ABV)

paper plane cocktail with alcohol free bitters

Ingredients:

  • .75oz American Malt 
  • .75oz Italian Orange
  • .75oz Amaro Nonino
  • .75oz Fresh lemon juice

Directions

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. 

Verdict: NOPE. The flavors do not blend well at all. American Malt isn’t helping either, with that artificial caramel flavoring.  After this failed attempt, I had to make a real one, just to be sure, ya know? (wink) It tasted right. 

cocktail vs mocktail

Where to Buy Lyre’s Italian Orange

Click here for the best available price for Lyre’s Italian Orange on Amazon. 

Conclusion

Lyre’s Italian Orange is an approved substitute for a bitter aperitif in certain mocktails and non alcoholic Italian drinks, but not all. Tonic water is the key: the combination of quinine in tonic water with Italian Orange helps achieve the bitter flavor profile. Without it, Italian Orange is too sweet to act as an Aperol substitute. It cannot be considered a substitute for Campari because Campari is especially bitter. 

While I believe the non-alcoholic spritz can be improved upon, I am still pleased to have the option with Lyre’s Italian Orange. 

Be sure to check out other mocktail recipes. Each of those recipes have been tried and approved as either non-alcoholic cocktail substitutes or tasty alternative beverages.

Lyre’s Italian Orange Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Ingredients:  

Water, Sugar, Non-Alcoholic Fermented Grape Concentrate, Natural flavoring (Bitter Orange), Carmoisine Colour (E124), Azorubine Colour (E122), Acid: Citric Acid, Caramel Sugar Syrup, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Stabiliser: Cellulose Gum (E466)

VEGAN, DAIRY FREE, NUT FREE, EGG FREE, GLUTEN FREE

Nutrition:  Calories 76/100ml  /  Sugar 5.4g/30ml or 18g/100ml  /  Carbs: 5.4g/30ml or 18g/100ml  Storage: Refrigeration not necessary.  Consume within 6 months of opening.

Angela T.
Hi, I’m Angela! Ever since alternative beverages made their debut, I’ve been on a mission to find the best. As someone who loves wine and making craft cocktails, I approach each new beverage with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. I hope these honest reviews will help you learn which non-alcoholic drinks are best for you.