Happy Hour History: The Americano

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Pop quiz: What’s the first cocktail James Bond ever ordered?

A Martini? Nope.

A Vesper? Guess again.

A 007? Don’t be cute.

It was an Americano. Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda. Such a light concoction might seem incongruous with Bond’s popular image as a macho secret agent and killer of henchmen and ladies alike, but it’s true. In Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first novel in the Bond series, 007 orders one up while at a café. Though, he doesn’t seem particularly enthused about it, declaring, “In cafés you have to drink the least offensive of the musical comedy drinks that go with them.” Still, Americanos are preferable to the Heinekens he was knocking back in Skyfall.

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First served at the Caffè Campari in Milan, Italy, sometime in the 1860s, the Americano was created by Gaspare Campari as a fizzy vehicle for his eponymous liqueur. Invented in 1860, Campari (the liqueur, not the man) is an aperitif made by infusing alcohol with herbs and fruit. The result is a dark red, syrupy spirit with a distinctly bittersweet flavor. Fun fact: until 2006, Campari’s red color was the result of carmine dye, a common pigment derived from crushed cochineal insects.

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Delizioso!

Gaspare originally called the cocktail a Milano-Torino in honor of the provenance of its ingredients: Campari from Milan, and Punt e Mes (the original vermouth used) from Turin. According to one telling, the Americano name was a nod to the cocktail’s popularity with Americans. However, another theory suggests the name is actually a bastardization of the word “amaro,” which means bitter in Italian.

The Americano is refreshing, effervescent, and easy to drink. It’s a sophisticated sipper for summer parties, and a nice brunch alternative to the mimosa.

Americano Recipe

Ingredients
1.5 oz. Campari
1.5 oz. sweet vermouth
Club soda — Bond preferred Perrier, but regular old Canada Dry work just as well.

Directions: Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add the Campari and vermouth. Top off with soda, garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

Note: Campari is a big liqueur. If you find the flavors too strong, go heavier on the soda to cut it back a bit.

Enjoy while listening to this.

Jim Sabataso is a writer, part-time bartender, and full-time cocktail enthusiast living in Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso.

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