There are two more or less equally important drinks called the Americano, and they both started in Italy. The boozy Americano, a predecessor to the now-ubiquitous Negroni cocktail, is a stretched out version of the Milano-Torino — equal parts campari and sweet vermouth, diluted with soda water. The coffee Americano started, according to legend, to appease American GIs not accustomed to the strength of espresso. It's a shot of espresso diluted with hot water until it gets to the strength of a regular cup of drip coffee.
I confess that, despite being a coffee professional, the former Americano is the one I feel more of an affection for - an easy to sip, relatively low-ABV drink perfect for on an early summer evening (or throughout a day off).
Thinking about uses for coffee in a classic cocktail, it seemed super-obvious to combine these two same-named drinks, which share not only the moniker, but also the process of diluting a potent, bittersweet beverage with water to make it easier to drink. Indeed, a quick Google search proved that it wasn't just obvious to me. Truman Severson wrote an Americano/Americano recipe on Sprudge in 2015, which involves force-carbonating the ingredients together, and Imbibe has published a cold brew version from J & Tony’s in San Diego. I’m sure those are far from the only two around.
My version sticks with the simpler method of topping the beverage off with soda water (in my case, the super-mineraly and fizzy Topo Chico, though substituting the soda of your choice is very much ok). I’ve also been making it not with bitter Campari, but with Antico Amaro Noveis, a spirit that’s syrupy and pretty balanced on the sweet, bitter, and pleasantly medicinal sides, as far as amaros go. The combination of amaros and coffee is definitely always towards the front of my mind, because of many Saturdays spent at the bar of New York’s Amor y Amargo back when Amanda Whitt was running the Double Buzz coffee-cocktail program there on weekends.
As far as coffee, I’d choose a bright, fruity one here (a Kenya or light to medium roast Colombia, perhaps?) to cut through the sweetness of the amaro and Italian vermouth. Without an espresso machine at home, I’m making an espresso-like shot with my AeroPress and Fellow’s Prismo Attachment. You don’t want much more than an ounce of coffee here to save room for the soda to do its thing, so brew up a short, strong shot.
As with boozy Americanos and, even more famously, Negronis, this drink should welcome substitution, so replacing the bitter liqueur with other amaros or aperitifs should be fun. And the next time I have any on hand, I’m excited to try it with sherry instead of vermouth. Those chameleonic possibilities combined with its American-in-Italy nature makes naming this Americano cocktail recipe after Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley seem appropriate enough.
- 1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
- 1 1/2oz Antico Amaro Noveis
- 1 oz espresso
- Soda water
- Lemon slice
- Brew a shot of espresso, or another very strong coffee
- Pour Italian vermouth, amaro, and espresso into a shaker filled with ice cubes
- Stir to combine
- Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes
- Top with soda water
- Stir gently*
- Garnish with a lemon slice
*You could definitely save this step for last to admire — or let the person you’re serving this drink admire — the ombré effect of the color gradient throughout the drink. Either way, you're sure to enjoy this Americano cocktail recipe.