Thursday, January 28, 2010

Le Cocktail “Americano”

A handful of years back, while sitting in a delightful café in Paris I tasted my first Americano. It has since become my cocktail of choice.

Cocktails each have their moment, and one cocktail doesn’t fit them all. My short list of favorites include:
      - A good and spicy Bloody Mary when the morning calls for a drink;
      - A classic martini (wet and made with Brokers Gin please) when the occasion demands it;
      - A Pimms Cup, which I discovered in a very classy joint in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is best when something different is called for;
      - A Negroni when you feel the need for something refreshing featuring a little extra kick;
      - And of course the southern French institution, a  Ricard with it’s accompanying jug of water and tall glass of ice on hot afternoons, or even better a Moresque, made from Ricard and Orgeat syrup with water and ice.

But when it comes to the classic before dinner drink, my preference is the Americano.

The Americano was invented at Cafe Campari in Italy sometime in the 1860s. It was originally known as the “Milano-Torino” because of its ingredients: Campari, the bitter liqueur, is from Milan and Cinzano, the vermouth, is from Turin (Torino). The story is that in the early 1900s, the Italians noticed a surge of Americans who enjoyed the cocktail. As a compliment to the Americans, the cocktail later became known as the “Americano.” And should you think it’s some frou-frou umbrella drink, note that it is the first drink ordered by James Bond in the first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

The classic Italian recipe for an Americano is:
      1 part Campari
      1 part sweet vermouth, preferably Cinzano
      1 part club soda
      Slice of orange.
      Serve over ice.

This classic recipe is the way you will find it most often, and what is described in most cocktail books. It makes for a good drink, but this is not the way I like it best. You see, while I was eating and drinking my way around Paris, then Lyon, Beaune, Saint Remy, and other miscellaneous destinations around France, I discovered that there is a “Parisian” take on the Americano.

Rumor has it the Americano migrated to Paris around the 1920s. Where, at some point, in some Parisian café or hotel bar, the recipe changed.

The basic “Parisian” Americano is:
      1 part Campari
      1 part sweet vermouth
      1 part dry white vermouth
      Slice of orange
      Serve over ice.

Folks, this is a very good drink. And this is the way I first had it in that delightful café not too far from the Arc de Triomphe.

But it gets better.

Later, somewhere along my travels,  I had what I like to call the “deluxe” version of the “Parisian” Americano, and it was terribly dangerously delicious. Habit forming even.

Here is how you make a “Deluxe Parisian Americano”:
      1 part Campari
      1 part Lillet Blank
      1 part Lillet Rouge
      Slice of orange
      Serve over ice.

To my tastes this is the ne plus ultra of the Americano.

Go ahead, be dangerous, do a James Bond and order one… but be warned you’ll probably have to instruct the bartender how to make it.

Unless you’re at my place that is.

Le Capitaine

Salma Hayek promoting her "favorite" drink: Campari

Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge, critical components to a deluxe Parisian Americano.


  1. Sounds delish! Ok next time I'm in LA i need you to teach me petanque and make me one of these...demanding aren't I? :)

  2. I like mine on the sweet side (more Cinzano red).

  3. I was distracted by the choice of lovely imagery and missed what the drink is made of.

  4. Bri - I am at your service ;-)

    Fabrice - As the gentleman wishes.

    Wicks - We are way overdue for a dinner and drinks get together!