The Americano Is The Coffee-Free Campari Cocktail You Should Know

If you're new to Americano cocktails, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they're a variation on the popular espresso martini. But the drink is totally caffeine-free — and predates the popular coffee cocktail by a solid century.

Americanos feature equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth topped with soda water and served on the rocks. Tasting Table's Americano cocktail recipe features orange bitters to complement the existing flavors and add dimension to the drink. Don't forget an orange twist.

The drink is a must-try if you like Negronis — or want to like Negronis but find them too bitter and boozy. But the recipe for a Negroni is based on the Americano, not the other way around: Negronis were allegedly invented in 1918 when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender for a stiffer drink, replacing the soda water in his Americano with gin.

The Americano itself is based on an even older drink, the Milano-Torino, made from just Campari and vermouth. As the story goes, the Americano dates back to 1880s Milan. American tourists visiting the Camparino bar tried the Milano-Torino and found the drink too pungent, so bartenders added soda water in an attempt to tone down the bitter flavor.

The drink was a hit. Now, it's on the International Bartender's Association's official list of so-called Unforgettables and even has a stamp of approval from one of pop culture's biggest cocktail fans. While James Bond is known for his martinis in the movies, he orders Americanos throughout Ian Fleming's original novels.

Americano, the Italian way

Despite its name, the Americano has a distinctly Italian flair. This cocktail is a mainstay of the Italian aperitivo pre-dinner drink scene. Bitter citrus liqueur and vermouth are both popular in Italian cocktails; the drinks are typically topped off with soda water or prosecco for light, low-proof refreshment.

Campari is part of a whole family of bitter liqueurs used in aperitivo drinks. Aperol, star of the globally celebrated Aperol spritz, is another; Contratto Bitter and Select Aperitivo are lesser-known variations. They're generally bright red or orange, flavored with herbs, spices, and citrus. This citrus often comes from chinotto, a type of bitter orange.

For a classic aperitivo experience, sip your Americano the Italian way, which is accompanied by light appetizers. Typical snacks include olives, nuts, meats, and cheeses; an aperitivo is the perfect time to hone your charcuterie skills. Potato chips are a common component, too. While slightly unexpected, the aperitivo and chip combo goes all the way back to the 1880s. But the most important part of the aperitivo experience is conviviality: Invite your friends and family, sit back, and sip an Americano to mark the start of your evening. And if you find you're getting into the happy spirit of aperitivi, maybe it's also time to explore the after-dinner culture of Italy, with its digestive drinks, also known as amari.