Americano Cocktail: The Cure for the Common Prohibition

I know, I know, I know. It’s October. But I have a cocktail I associate with warm weather anyway. The Americano Cocktail is a sophisticated blend of Campari and sweet vermouth made light and sparkly with plenty of club soda. It conjures up exotic European warm-weather locales in my mind.

But you see I spent the weekend in Palm Springs. We drank Americanos because we got to talking about cocktail lore. What else do you talk about at cocktail hour?

So in honor of (yet another) poolside cocktail hour, I’ve got another wacky story from the crazy days of the American Prohibition. Now, remember, alcohol was pretty much illegal– that was the point of Prohibition– but there were loopholes and people found them.

This story starts with everyday Americans flocking for the first time in massive numbers to Europe for vacation. Prohibition played a role in their travel plans. For some, chasing the elusive cocktail was an important priority of their holiday. American visitors to Italy were introduced to Campari once arrived. Campari is a complex bitter aperitif that had the reputation of having some medicinal value. An elixir if you will.

Campari PosterWell, “ailing” Americans pretty quickly discovered their favored preparation of this elixir. It was a simple combination of Campari and sweet vermouth.

It was originally developed in the 1860s at Gaspare Campari’s bar in Milan, Italy where the drink was known at the time as the Milano-Torino because of the origins of its ingredients.

Well, the longer Prohibition went on the “sicker” Americans got! Pretty soon so many Americans were taking the “Campari Cure” that they renamed the drink the Americano.

It came to be that Campari was so well-accepted as a healthful remedy with medicinal purposes that those with willing “doctors” were even able to get “prescriptions” of the stuff to take back home with them– just enough Campari to help them ride out the sickness known as Prohibition.

Americano Cocktail serves 1 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 oz Campari
  • 2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz club soda
  • 1 lemon or orange twist as garnish

Stir the Campari and vermouth together in a mixing glass half-filled with ice cubes. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Top with club soda. Twist the lemon or orange slice over the drink, and drop it in. Serve with a swizzle stick.


Greg Henry

Sippity Sup