An Italian thirst-quencher, named for American imbibers
Hot, humid summer afternoons can drag us down. But we perk right up when we sip an Americano—a compelling mix of astringent Campari and sweet vermouth, lightened with sparkling water.
The Americano makes a perfect hot-weather apéritif. And it’s fairly low in alcohol, so you can have two without worrying about the consequences.
Good thing. Because once you have one, you’re sure to want another.
Recipe: The Americano Cocktail
Originally, this cocktail was called the Milano-Torino, after the Italian towns of Milan and Turin. That’s because, as Wikipedia notes, its ingredients included Campari liqueur (which is made in Milan) and Punt e Mes (a sweetish vermouth from Turin).
Later on though, barkeeps noticed how popular the drink was among American tourists, who loved its great good looks and refreshing taste. So they started calling it The Americano. (More about the cocktail’s history later.)
The Americano somewhat resembles the Negroni Cocktail—which is equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and dry gin. But The Negroni has a stronger flavor (because of the gin).
No need to use Punt e Mes in an Americano, BTW. Today most people just use any sweet vermouth that’s available to them (more in the Notes).
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (the red stuff; see Notes)
- ~1 ounce club soda or seltzer water (to taste; see Notes)
- garnish of an orange slice or twist (optional; may substitute a lemon slice)
- Fill a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass with ice. Add the Campari and sweet vermouth. Add drinking straws and stir briefly.
- Pour the fizzy water on top and briefly stir again with the straws. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- We like to make this drink in a rocks glass, but you could also use a tall glass if you prefer.
- Although our recipe calls for equal quantities of Campari and sweet vermouth, you may see versions that specify more of one ingredient than another. Feel free to experiment with this if you like.
- The amount of fizzy water to add is definitely up to you. Depending on our mood, we generally add about 1 to 1½ ounces. This yields a refreshing drink, but doesn’t dilute the flavor of the Campari and sweet vermouth too much. You may prefer more or less than we suggest—so definitely experiment.
- If you make this drink in a tall glass, you’ll probably end up adding more sparkling water. In that case, you might want to increase the Campari and sweet vermouth to 1½ ounces each (so the extra fizzy water doesn’t over-dilute the drink).
- Campari is a red-hued Italian liqueur with a bitter flavor. Some people enjoy it over ice or with soda water (no vermouth) as a before-dinner drink. As noted above, it’s also great in a Negroni.
- Like Campari, vermouth can also be consumed straight as an apéritif.
- Sweet (red) vermouth is also sometimes called Italian vermouth—which makes sense, because sweet vermouth was invented in Turin (by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786).
- We like the Martini & Rossi brand of sweet vermouth in this drink, but any name-brand red vermouth will work.
- Our usual reminder: We’re noncommercial and don’t receive compensation for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
- BTW, vermouth has a relatively low alcohol quotient. So once it’s opened, it will start to oxidize. We store opened bottles in the refrigerator to retard the oxidization process.
- Punt e Mes means “point and a half” in Piedmontese. The reference is to its flavor characteristics: 1 point of sweetness, half a point of bitterness. It was invented by the Carpano firm around 1867.
- The flavor of Punt e Mes is stronger than that of “generic” sweet vermouth (think of it as sweet vermouth with more bitters added).
- Most people in the US substitute sweet vermouth in The Americano because Punt e Mes can be hard to find in US liquor stores. But if you manage to locate Punt e Mes, definitely try it in this drink and see what you think.
- As noted above, this cocktail was originally called the Milano-Torino. It was probably invented in a Turin bar during the 1860s (probably after 1867, when Punt e Mes came along). No one really knows who created the drink, although some think it originated in a bar run by Gaspare Campari (who may have created the drink himself). As you might have guessed, Gaspare Campari also created Campari liqueur (in 1860).
- During the late 1890s and early 1900s, American tourists began flocking to Italy. Legend has it that they particularly enjoyed this cocktail, which was renamed “The Americano” in their honor.
- Some people insist that the name of this drink actually derives from the Italian word amaro, which means bitter. Could be—but most cocktail authorities don’t buy this theory.
“Love the bitter nip of Campari,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And the sweet vermouth tempers this drink perfectly.”
“Well, we have to take the bitter with the sweet,” I said.
“You bet your sweet life,” said Mrs K R.
“This drink is good to the bitter end,” I said, draining my glass.
“Could I sweet-talk you into making me another one?” said Mrs K R.
“Sure,” I said, reaching for bottles. “Don’t want you to feel bitter.”
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