Like the Milano-Torino, the Americano has long been something of a bit player in the cast of classic Italian aperitivi—just left of frame from the splashy, sun-dappled sensation that is the spritz and perennially edged out by those who favor the scene-stealing brawniness of the Negroni. However, the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water) has more to offer than meets the eye. Like all of the Italian aperitivi, the Americano’s beauty lies in the malleability of its formula—or, more precisely, that it is less a set formula than it is a customizable blueprint. Arrange it however you like, so long as there is a sweet, a bitter and a bubbly.
Consider one of the most beloved modern takes on the drink: the Rome With a View. Michael McIlroy’s mashup of a classic Collins and the Americano features dry vermouth in place of sweet plus a dose of lime juice and simple syrup. Or Chip Tyndale’s riff on the same cocktail, the Seven Hills, which swaps out vermouth for Cocchi Americano, Campari for Amaro CioCiaro, and adds some additional intrigue with small measures of both lemon juice and apricot liqueur, alongside a balancing dose of simple syrup. It’s a riff on a riff, twice removed, but still with all the essential features of the Americano format.
Ryan Chetiyawardana, meanwhile, approaches the drink as one would expect him to, through the lens of modern technique. He fast-infuses Campari and sweet vermouth with sloe berries (herbs, alternative berries and citrus peels will also do) in a microwave, allows it to cool, and then tops it off with the requisite soda water for an Americano firmly rooted to the 21st century.
But it’s Damon Boelte’s test of the Americano’s essential features that is perhaps the best proof of its flexibility. He, too, takes a mashup approach, combining the classic base of the drink with pilsner in place of soda. Some might call the swap blasphemous, but Boelte boldly disagrees. It’s an unwitting show-stopper, and he calls it the Americano Perfecto.