Cocchi Americano is an aromatized wine that is irresistible over ice with a twist but also versatile in a range of cocktails. Its citrus-driven flavors of lemon peel, chamomile, and black tea lead to a lip-smacking, slightly bitter finish.
Classification aromatized wine
Company Bava Winery
Winery Giulio Cocchi Spumanti ( Asti, Italy)
Proof 33 (16.5% ABV)
A perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness
Great solo and chilled over ice, with a splash of soda water and a twist, or as a modifier in cocktails
Like most aperitivi, it's a low-proof alternative to traditional spirits at 16.5% ABV.
It might be too bitter for fans of Lillet and softer aperitivi, and can’t be used to replace them in cocktails.
Color: Straw yellow
Nose: Chamomile, gentian, and the unmistakable Juicy Fruit-gum note that’s inherent to the Moscato grape
Palate: Citrusy, grapey, floral, and a bit peachy, with an initial sweetness that hits mid-palate, along with a silky, slightly oily, slippery texture on the tongue. The flavors then transition into an easy-bitter mode, turning down the sweetness in favor of a tannic dryness and tea-like bitterness.
Finish: Bitter orange, lemony citrus peel, chamomile, and a little bit of mint. The bitterness seems made for pairing with salty and savory snacks.
Although the history of Cocchi Americano dates back to 1891 in Piedmont, Italy, the aromatized wine didn’t appear stateside until 2010, when it was first imported by Haus Alpenz. Since then, it has become a favorite of bartenders for its bittersweet flavor profile and its similarities to the now-discontinued Kina Lillet.
While its name might bring to mind the espresso drink or the cocktail, the Americano we’re talking about here is an EU-regulated style of aromatized wine made from a base of Moscato d’Asti. And its name comes not from the country but from the French word amer, which translates to bitter. Although vermouth is also an aromatized wine, the two differ in their main herbal components: Vermouth must contain wormwood (it derives its name from wermut, the German translation of the herb), whereas americano is characterized by its inclusion of gentian, a bittersweet and earthy herb. Americano is also flavored with citrus peel and quinine, which add to its bitter flavor profile.
The crowing rooster on Cocchi Americano’s label will clue you in to the purpose of the liquid inside: To awaken your appetite. And that it does. There are layers of aroma and flavor in Cocchi Americano, and it’s deliciously fun to scratch at them. Is that orange blossom or bitter orange? A peachy aroma or the tell-tale signs of the Piemontese-grown white Moscato grape? Mint or the refreshing bite of bitter herbs? The many flavors lead to a world of mixing possibilities—or delightful solo sipping.
As far as cocktails go, Cocchi Americano plays nicely in a twist on the classic Americano cocktail, or with club soda and an orange twist. It’s also outstanding with the vegetal, roasty notes of tequila. But the bottle particularly shines in cocktails that once called for Kina Lillet, such as the Vesper and the Corpse Reviver No. 2: A reformulation of the French aromatized wine in 1986 toned down the quinine bite, and bartenders today swear Cocchi Americano is more similar to the original than is the reformulation, now called Lillet blanc, making it a good substitute. Cocchi Americano is also delicious on its own, served over ice with a simple lemon twist. Canned and bottled cocktails are ubiquitous now in the U.S. and England, but Cocchi’s aromatized and complex wine-based beverage might just be the original standalone sipper—and a delicious one at that.
James Bond creator Ian Fleming invented the Vesper in 1953 with very specific instructions: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” But Fleming couldn’t have foreseen that a reformulation in 1986 would change one of the components of his concoction forever. The modern-day version, now known as Lillet blanc, while a lovely spirit in its own right, lacks the bitterness of the original. Bartenders swear by Cocchi Americano, or some combination of Cocchi Americano and Lillet blanc, for creating Fleming’s intended drink.