Meet the Americano. The Americano is not to be confused with its espresso namesake, which is an equal part espresso and hot water - a common order for coffee-lovers who don't trust commercial drip coffee.
The cocktail Americano, on the other hand, is a creation of Americans abroad and the bartenders who served them in Italy. Supposedly (the story goes) the Americano was first served in Gaspare Campari's bar, Cafe Campari (yes, that Campari). It was the 1860s and there were plenty of American expatriates around. The drink was originally known as the "Milano-Torino" because Campari is from Milan, where Cafe Campari is located.
Campari creator Gaspare Campari was from Torino and he settled in Milan, where he created the startling orange Campari - the world's top-selling bitters. He brought sweet vermouth with him from Torino and combined the two signature liquors into this drink, stirring them with soda water - hence the original name.
The Italians soon noticed that many Americans enjoyed the cocktail. Eventually the cocktail became known as the "Americano". The Americano is also a classic aperitif, often served before dinner to cleanse the palate and awaken the appetite.
We love the Americano too. It has a relatively low alcohol content, and we can easily adjust the bitterness. The bitter citrus flavor of the Campari is incredibly refreshing - a palate cleanser on a hot day. The sweet vermouth balances it out just enough with a sweet muskiness, and the soda water makes what could be a very strong and overwhelming drink into a tingling refresher for a hot evening.
We like to serve citrus slices in our Americanos; the photo shows a blood orange but these are rather out of season by now. Substitute another citrus slice or even a lime.
makes 1 cocktail
1 1/2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Club soda or seltzer
Orange slice for garnish
Fill up an old-fashioned tumbler with ice. You can also water this down a bit more and use a highball; we often do this when we want a long cool drink but not a lot of alcohol.
Pour the Campari and vermouth over the ice and top up with seltzer.
(Images: Faith Hopler)