Make the Milano-Torino Your Own

Here's how to turn the two-ingredient Italian classic into a master class in pairing vermouth and bitter liqueurs.

The Milano-Torino is perhaps best known, if known at all, as the predecessor of the Americano. Its name, which is often affectionately shortened to “Mi-To,” is an ode to its build: equal parts Campari, from Milano, and sweet vermouth, from Torino, with a slice of orange. Born in the 1860s at Gaspare Campari’s Caffè Camparino in Milano, it is effectively the bittersweet base upon which Italian-style drinking is built.

In addition to the tall version of the drink, dubbed the Americano, the Milano-Torino also had a lesser-known sibling, called the Torino-Milano: a combination of Campari and the now-defunct Amaro Cora, a lightly bittersweet amaro from Piemonte, Torino’s home region. It’s a minor footnote in the drink’s history that might seem hardly worth mentioning, except that it represents an early nod to the flexibility of the two-ingredient format.

With its minimalist build, the Milano-Torino is perhaps best embraced as a DIY master class inblending two of the drink world’s most complex and varied ingredients: bitter liqueurs and vermouth. While the original combination of Campari and sweet vermouth (or Punt e Mes) is beguiling enough to carry forth intact for another century, the Mi-To, like the spritz, is best enjoyed when personalized—whether it’s a combination of Suze and Martini & Rossi Ambrato vermouth with a twist of grapefruit, or Amaro Pasubio and Cocchi Barolo Chinato with a twist of lemon (both PUNCH favorites). In other words, the Milano-Torino is an invitation, not a prescription.

To wit, Jon Mullen, the former bar director at Pisellino in New York, prefers a less-conventional take on the drink, replacing the vermouth with a quinquina wine, like Cocchi Americano or Mattei’s Cap Corse Blanc, alongside the alpine Amaro Braulio, tying them together with a twist of lemon. He also describes the split of Alessio Vermouth di Torino and Contratto Bitter, served as the house Milano-Torino at Brooklyn’s Sauvage, as “primo.” It reads as lighter and brighter than the original—a Mi-To with wings.

Chantal Tseng ushers it in a different direction, combining rich, licorice-y Ramazzotti with Dolin dry vermouth, taking an additional liberty with the specs by revising from 1:1 to either 2:1 Ramazzotti to Dolin or 1:2, based on when it was being consumed. “The idea is the vermouth-dominant version was more preprandial and the reverse was more postprandial,” says Tseng, a Washington, D.C.-based bartender. Both versions are served over a large rock with a lemon peel. Emilio Salehi of Equal Parts also calls on dry vermouth (Bordiga Extra Dry from Piemonte, specifically) and swaps Campari for Alpe Lys, a lightly bitter alpine liqueur. 

Brad Thomas Parsons, while an admitted “amaro-tonic or amaro-soda guy,” likes the combination of Heirloom’s Pineapple Amaro and Dolin Blanc with a lemon twist and “optional pineapple wedge.” The Amaro author is also a fan of Lustau’s sherry-based vermouths, especially the rosso, which he recommends “Mi-To-ing” with Amaro Lucano and an orange twist.

A common swap is sweet vermouth for bianco, which is more herbal and high-toned versus nutty and spicy, but still carries a similar level of sweetness. Bartender Dan Sabo prefers La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Blanc, whose notes of “eucalyptus and honey” offer a “counterpoint to the bitter orange of Campari.” He sticks close to the classic with the garnish as well, swapping a slice of orange for a twist.

Today, vermouth is made in nearly every corner of the globe, from Japan to Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera, in styles that fit classic molds and those that purposefully defy them. The category of bitter liqueurs (both amari and aperitivi) and aperitif wines (prime swap-ins for vermouth) has grown right alongside. The standard-bearers from Italy and France are now joined by a cavalcade of American upstarts that are seeking to rewrite the rules while still paying homage to their forebears. Such a bounty of products to choose from hasn’t existed for more than a century, when you’d find a two- or three-ingredient vermouth cocktail on every corner. Luckily, the modern Milano-Torino is just the template to make good use of it.

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