Sake Gumi
The Americano

I am, I must admit, a Negroni man through and through. As far as cocktails go, the Negroni is probably the closest a libation comes to inducing what smokers refer to as the "munchies"--in other words it's a monster of an aperitif. Yet despite its simple and to the point manner, in these dog days of summer I often find myself in need of an even simpler form of refreshment that can be delivered without having to break out the full barware set.

So what libation can men (or women) of such moiety turn to in these moments when the heat level seems inversely proportional to one's energy level? Friends, your answer is the Americano--a bittersweet combo of Campari, Italian vermouth, and soda, suffuse with a red-orange hue reminiscent of an old Vespa. Originally called a "Milano-Torino" (Campari from Milan and originally Cinzano vermouth from Turin) when it was first served in the 1860s by Gaspare Campari in his aptly named Cafe Campari, it eventually became known as the Americano due to its popularity among Prohibition-fleeing Americans biding their time in Italy.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Italian vermouth
seltzer or club soda to top
lemon twist for garnish

Tools: nothin' other than a stick to stir with and a knife to cut a twist

Glass: highball

Place a few large ice cubes in your glass; add the Campari and vermouth; top with seltzer or club soda and garnish with the lemon twist; give a light stir and enjoy!

Initial recipes called for a 2 to 1 ratio of Campari to vermouth, but over the years the amount of Campari was tempered to an even ratio with vermouth, which is what many modern recipes call for. But as I stated earlier, unfussiness and almost complete lack of effort are the protocols of the moment, so it's really up to you to decide which ratio best suits your taste, and if you splished when you should have splashed (or vice-versa), so be it--although I'd hesitate putting more vermouth than Campari.

Over the years the Americano has inspired a number of other cocktails, the most notable being the aforementioned Negroni. The Negroni was created around the turn of the last century when a certain Florentine aristocrat named Count Negroni ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda. So if you appreciate a Negroni, consider yourself indebted to the Americano.

Another variation for white wine fans is the Bicyclette, which simply subs out the vermouth for a dry Italian white like a Pinot Grigio and leaves out the soda altogether--the Campari of course stays. And if you're an unconvincable Negroni devotee who's willing to venture out a bit but don't want to lose the kick of a hard spirit, try the tequila-based Negroni riff called La Rosita.

The Americano enjoyed popularity through the early half of the 20th century for good reason. At a time when American work culture permitted lunchtime drinking, the Americano was a perfect fit for those who wanted to tipple a bit without tipping over. And it was a summer drink for the Mad Men types who didn't drink so-called summer drinks.

If you're still not convinced of the bona fides of the Americano, then consider this: before he ever ordered a "shaken-not-stirred" Martini, Ian Fleming's super-spy protagonist ordered an Americano in Casino Royale (with Perrier being his fizz of choice). So if it's manly enough for Bond, you should be just fine.

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot
Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.
Column: Happy Hour


  • Jason, to accurately tell you I'd have to know the size of your pitcher and how many folks you'll want to serve.

    But as I mentioned in the post, this drink doesn't require too much precision, so don't worry about ounces w/regard to Campari & sweet vermouth, just do equal proportions. And as far as the soda, just do it to taste.

    The final product should be comfortably bittersweet. And keep in mind, some folks just have an aversion to Campari, so don't think you necessarily did it wrong.

    Good luck!

    Paystyle on

  • quick question as I'm in Japan right now and have no way of measuring ounces, and to top it off, am planning a dinner party where I'm trying to make pitchers of cocktail hooch. How much soda do you think one would actually need to even it out, in proportion? Thanks!

    jason k on

  • Yah I do know about those pre-bottled drinks, but I dunno- it's all about the ACT of making it yourself, right??? Those are perfect for picnics and the beach though!

    kayoko on

  • Yes I do remember that you're a Campari-soda girl, but trust me, you'll love the addition of sweet vermouth.

    Btw, did you know you can buy pre-bottled Campari-sodas in Italy? Actually I saw a pack at Buonitalia market in Chelsea Market the other day.

    Paystyle on

  • A Campari and soda is definitely my summer drink of choice. I'm having one right now in fact! But the addition of vermouth is new to me- I'll go pick up a bottle asap!

    kayoko on

  • So I wasn't able to find any more vermouth (the I guess I bought the last of it last time), so I switched to ume sake instead, called it a Japanicano. It isn't bad!

    jason on

  • Paystyle you did it again. Awesome post, and what a refreshing cocktail this was. I had fun drinking and photographing it.

    Vanessa Bahmani on

  • David – thanks for reading and commenting! I've never tried that combination, and as soon as I buy another bottle of Campari I'll have to give it a try.

    I normally prefer to keep the Campari and sweet vermouth in equal ratio, even when increasing the proportion of gin, and I also normally prefer it stirred. But the myriad variations are what makes "mixology" so interesting—in some ways more so than cooking.

    Paystyle on

  • a friend of mine was over the other night, and, realizing I had all the necessary ingredients, made some negronis. except, he changed the ratios and did it martini-style: a stiff amount of gin (in this case bombay), a hint of vermouth, and about an ounce of campari, shaken. results: excellent.

    david on

  • Jason – Way to get creative! Although my initial thought is that Sake could get easily overpowered by Campari, I think an ultra-dry sake would actually work well.

    And I'd probably skip the seltzer altogether and just do equal parts dry sake & Campari on the rocks, and you'll have a Japanese version of the Bicyclette!

    Paystyle on

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