The sophisticated Americano cocktail is a lazy mixologist’s dream come true. Learn how to craft the classic Italian cocktail in five minutes or less.
We hesitated to craft an Americano at home thinking that is was simply a lesser version of the Negroni. After all, an Americano is basically a Negroni without gin. As it turns out, we were right about the Americano cocktail recipe but wrong with our expectations.
We quickly realized that an Americano is delightfully easy to drink even though it has fewer calories and less alcohol compared to a Negroni. Equally rich in color and featuring two Italian liquors, both Campari cocktails taste like Italy in a glass. However, without the gin, sweet and bitter liquors cohesively mingle in the glass before dancing in the mouth.
In other words, the Americano is an ideal summer sipper that’s sophisticated enough to drink all year long.
What Is an Americano Cocktail?
Ordering an Americano in Italy can go two different ways.
If you’re lucky, you could soon be sipping a Caffè Americano made with espresso and hot water. If you’re luckier, you’ll get an Americano drink crafted with Campari and sweet vermouth instead.
We already spilled the beans when we described the Americano as a Negroni without gin. But we didn’t tell the full story of the drink which has inspired a myriad of aperitivos…
History of the Americano
You’re surely familiar with the Americano cocktail if you’re a movie buff or an Ian Fleming fan. It’s the very first drink that James Bond drinks in Casino Royale and it also appears in From Russia with Love and A View to a Kill. But did you know that the Americano cocktail history predates Fleming’s series by almost a century?
According to cocktail lore, the Americano was born in the 1860s when Gaspare Campari (yes, that Campari) added soda water to a Milano-Torino cocktail at his bar in Milan. The Milano-Torino has just two ingredients – herbaceous Campari from Milan and sweet Punt e Mes vermouth from Turin.
The soda water version eventually donned the name Americano when it became popular with American ex-pats and travelers in Italy. Although mixologists later added gin to create the Negroni in the 20th century, the Campari Americano lives on in both its Italian homeland and around the world.
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You don’t need a million ingredients to craft an Americano at home. If you’re like us, you likely have the necessary ingredients lurking in your kitchen and bar:
Campari is a complex liqueur that derives its herbaceous tones from 50+ secret ingredients that include bitter herbs, aromatic plants and fruit. Not only is it a key ingredient in Italian cocktails, but it’s also great for making simple summer spritzes with soda or sparkling wine.
While you probably have Campari in your home bar, you’re even more likely to have a bottle of sweet red vermouth. Similar to Campari, this Italian liquor has a secret recipe and is highly versatile. We use it to craft Boulevardier, Manhattan and Negroni cocktails.
How To Craft an Americano Cocktail
The first step is to peel a strip of peel from an orange and create an orange twist. We like to trim our strip with a paring knife to get smooth edges.
Twirl your orange peel strip around a chopstick to achieve a curly twist.
The next step is to measure the two liquors. We use a jigger to ensure precise measurements.
You’ll want to pour each liquor into a lowball glass immediately after you measure it. There is no need to use a mixing glass or shaker for this recipe – an ideal situation for lazy mixologists who would rather drink from glasses than wash them.
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Once you pour the two liquors, you’ll want to add ice to the glass and gently stir. We used five medium ice cubes in our drink but one jumbo ice cube would work well too.
Next, top the glass with either club soda or sparkling water. You can add as much or as little as you like. Adding more soda will create a less potent potable.
We use Perrier to craft our cocktails for two reasons. First, Perrier is our preferred sparkling water and it’s what we typically drink at home. Second, club soda isn’t readily available in Lisbon where we live.
We’re not alone with our preference for Perrier. James Bond drank his Americano cocktails with Perrier too!
The final step is to add an orange peel twist. Before dropping the twist into the glass, rub the orange peel around the glass rim. Expressing the orange peel like this releases pleasing orange scents and flavors into your Americano.
Mastering our Americano recipe will only take you one try. This is not a cocktail with a learning curve! It’s super easy to craft even for the laziest of mixologists.
If you’re not so lazy and feel like experimenting, each of the following alternatives adds one ingredient to the Americano to create an entirely different drink:
Americano Cocktail Recipe
- 1 1/2 ounces Campari
- 1 1/2 ounces sweet red vermouth
- club soda or sparkling water
- orange peel, sliced into a narrow strip
- ice cubes
- Pour Campari and sweet red vermouth into a glass.
- Add ice and gently stir.
- Top off with club soda or sparkling water.
- Express the orange peel by twisting it over the glass and rubbing it along the rim. Then drop it into the glass as garnish.
- Serve the Americano in a low ball or rocks glass.
- As an option, shake the Americano and serve in a coupe or martini glass.
- Use a 1:1 ratio if you modify the serving size.
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Thirsty for More Cocktails?
Try our Absinthe Frappe, Amaretto Sour, Aperol Spritz, Aviation, Bee’s Knees, Bijou, Black Russian, Boulevardier, Brandy Alexander, Caipirinha, Clover Club, Creamsicle, Daiquiri, Diplomat, Dirty Shirley, Eggnog, Emerald, Espresso Martini, French 75, G+T, Gibson, Gimlet, Grasshopper, Hemingway Daiquiri, Hugo Spritz, Hurricane, Irish Coffee, Kir Royale, Last Word, Manhattan, Maple Bourbon Smash, Martinez, Mauresque, Milk Punch, Mint Julep, Mojito, Moscow Mule, Mudslide, Negroni, New York Sour, Old Fashioned, Paper Plane, Pimm’s Cup, Pink Lady, Porto Tonico, Ramos Gin Fizz, Revolver, Sazerac, Sidecar, Spicy Margarita, Tipperary, Tomate, Vieux Carré, Whiskey Ginger, Whiskey Sour, White Lady and White Russian cocktail recipes.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.