Photo credit: Cocchi
At Battersby in New York City, Cocchi Americano mingles with gin, fleur de sel, and verjus in the “Mont Cenis” cocktail. Thousands of miles away, spy it on the menu at Rum Club in Portland, Oregon, cozying up to Campari, gin, grapefruit liqueur, and grapefruit oil in the citrusy “His Girl Friday.” In Washington, D.C., the Partisan pairs it with Marker’s Mark, triple sec, and lemon in an elixir called “Lost in the Supermarket.” And in St. Louis, Missouri, it comes “club service” style, “on a tray with ice, a lemon twist, Fever Tree club soda, and a stirring spoon,” reports Bon Appétit. (Classy.)
So what is this stuff, and why is it suddenly everywhere?
The treacly Italian fortified wine tastes a bit like sweet vermouth, writes New York Times Magazine, but it’s actually made with “Moscato d’Asti, a sweet white wine fortified with a touch of brandy, then flavored with gentian, cinchona bark and other bittering aromatics, along with orange peels and herbs.”
Although Cocchi Americano has been around since 1891, it only garnered widespread distribution in 2010. Since then, it’s become a favorite of craft cocktail aficionados around the country thanks to its inimitably spicy, herbal notes, which make it ideal as an aperitif to whet the palate before dinner.
Among them is Paul Clarke, who wrote about the virtues of Cocchi Americano for Serious Eats a few years ago. Though Lillet stole the show as an aperitif of choice for many years, Clarke stressed that it’s time that Cocchi Americano took its rightful place—despite the similarity in taste of the two spirits—in the annals of cocktail history.
"I still quite enjoy contemporary Lillet, but Cocchi Americano gives many [classic drinks] new life, with the bitter element playing an effective counterpoint to the other flavors in the drink,” he wrote. “But there’s no need to break out the cocktail shaker; Cocchi is excellent as a simple aperitif, poured over ice with a splash of club soda and a slice of orange.”
Our suggestion? Enjoy it as Clarke suggests—or pour yourself a white negroni or a corpse reviver #2, both made (you guessed it) with a glug of Cocchi Americano. Hopefully it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.