What Is Cocchi Americano And How Do You Drink It?

Whether you're hosting a large dinner party or just cooking for yourself, every dinner can be enhanced with the addition of an aperitif. Aperitifs are meant to be drunk before dinner, and they're characteristically dry with low alcohol content, perfect for serving on their own or mixed into delicious, refreshing cocktails (via Advanced Mixology). The first aperitif can be traced back to the 5th century, but it became very popular in 19th-century Italy, according to Pampelle.

One such Italian aperitif is Cocchi Americano, which was developed by Giulio Cocchi in the late 19th century. The recipe is Moscato-based with lots of flavorful, fragrant infusions and other aromatics, making it a stand out amongst other bitter mixers and fortified wines. 

It's named after the way Americans popularly drank vermouth, another aperitif, mixed with soda water and ice, which is the simplest way to enjoy Cocchi Americano. However, there's a lot more to this fortified wine than that. Keep reading to learn more about the history and flavor profile of this popular player in the mixology world.

What is Cocchi Americano?

Cocchi Americano is an Italian aperitif and is used similarly to vermouth and other aromatized wines in cocktail making. According to Total Wine & More, the recipe for the Moscato-based drink has existed since 1891 and is known for its somewhat signature citrus-based, refreshing tastes.

While it's similar in fashion to vermouth, the two wines are not the same thing. Scott Stroemer, the beverage director at Chicago's Galit, explained to Food & Wine that Cocchi Americano has a much more bitter flavor profile, which contrasts vermouth's sweetness. It's also similar to Lillet, a French aperitif, which is a sweeter drink than the Americano because quinine was removed from the recipe. 

Gentian, cinchona bark, orange peel, juniper, rose, coriander, rhubarb, and mace all contribute to Cocchi Americano's unique flavor profile. The end result is something very bright and refreshing while still being herbaceous and spiced and adds a bitter kick to cocktails.

How is Cocchi Americano made?

The recipe for Cocchi Americano has been the same since 1891. While the mixing process is more guarded than other aperitifs of its caliber, the basic premise is the same. A base wine — in this case, Moscato d'Asti — is aromatized with orange peels, cinchona bark, and, most identifiable to the palette, quinine. After all the listed ingredients, along with other herbs and spices, have been combined, the small batches sit for a whole year, allowing the flavors to completely merge together. It's bottled once the year is up (via Difford's Guide).

For those who like rose blends, there's also the Cocchi Americano Rosa, which is made very similar to the original. Instead of just Moscato d'Asti, though, it's made of Brachetto, a red wine grape, and Malvasia, a white wine grape. It has all the same aromatics as regular Cocchi Americano, but adds ginger and rose petals, too.

Cocchi Americano vs. Lillet

People commonly associate Cocchi Americano with a similar aperitif — Lillet Blanc. This is because both aromatized wines have quinine in their original formulas. However, Lillet removed the bitter antimalarial medicine from their recipe in 1985, explains Kitchn. This means that Cocchi Americano is now much more bitter than Lillet, and closer to its original recipe in taste. Lillet is also made of a base of Sauvignon Blanc as opposed to Moscato (via Wine Enthusiast). It can also be made of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for Lillet Rosé or Lillet Rouge.

Original Lillet Blanc was used commonly in two popular cocktails — Vesper martinis, and the Corpse Reviver. The Vesper martini, the classic James Bond cocktail, is made by combining gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc, but Cocchi Americano can be substituted to achieve the classic bitter taste, per A Couple Cooks

The Corpse Reviver is a much more potent drink, made by mixing gin, lemon juice, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, absinthe, and, again, either Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano. A Couple Cooks adds that dry vermouth could replace either one of the aperitifs.

How to use Cocchi Americano

Cocchi Americano shines in a classically bitter cocktail like a Negroni (via Punch). Plus, the bright orange flavors of the Americano pair wonderfully with Campari and gin. For fruitier drinks, Food & Wine suggests pairing Cocchi Americano Rosa with grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and club soda. The outlet also recommends mixing Rosa with gin and orange bitters to enhance the natural citrus flavors present in both the original Americano and its rose counterpart.

The drink speaks for itself in more understated mixed drinks, too, like a spritz. Total Wine & More recommends adding sparkling wine or club soda with fresh grapefruit, orange, or another citrus fruit for a simple, bright, and not-too-sweet cocktail. The important thing to note about Cocchi Americano is its striking bitterness compared to other fortified wines and aperitifs, so if you use it in place of similar aromatized wines, the flavor profile may be stronger than expected. 

Where to buy Cocchi Americano

Cocchi Americano may not be on everyone's radar, but it is a popular aromatized wine. This means you'll likely have success finding it at your local liquor store. Look for it along with other aperitifs, including Aperol and Campari. You could also look near white wines or Italian liquors.

It has an ABV percentage of 16.5%, so finding it at a wine store varies based on what your state liquor laws are (via A Couple Cooks). It can also be purchased online, with Total Wine & More selling 750 milliliter bottles for $25.

Nutritional information about Cocchi Americano

Cocchi Americano is a wine, and as such, it should always be consumed in moderation. As with any alcohol, consuming too much can lead to short term effects like altered mental states and impaired motor skills or alcohol poisoning, and long-term effects including high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, liver damage, memory impairment, and more, per the CDC.

With that in mind, there are some medical experts who identify both white and red wine as having health benefits when consumed in moderation. Cocchi Americano is based on Moscato d'Asti, a sparkling white wine. White wine in moderation can help boost your metabolism and increase heart and lung health, as well as help your cholesterol levels, per MDLinx. There are antioxidants present in white wine that are even linked to protection against cognitive diseases.

Another aspect of alcohol that can affect your health is proper storage. Once opened, make sure to store Cocchi Americano in the fridge or another cool space with the cap on for up to a month.