Before the Vesper, there was the Americano; this is the first cocktail that James Bond ever orders in the books. He does this at the bar of the Hermitage Hotel whilst he waits for Mathis and Vesper Lynd. When they arrive, Bond orders Mathis a Fine à l’eau and a Bacardi for Vesper.
Originally known as the Milano-Torino, this mix of Campari (from Milano) and Vermouth (from Torino) was invented during the 1860s at Caffe Camparino in Milan. The drink was renamed the Americano during US Prohibition, due to the fact that it was popular with American’s who came over to the continent and wanted a stiff drink.
1 part Campari
1 part Red Vermouth
2 parts Soda Water
Add ingredients to an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a slice of orange.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching vermouth and taste-testing different varieties; for an Americano, I would suggest using either Antica Formula or Martini Rosso for your red vermouth, alongside a good quality soda water.
Bittersweet, lighter than a Negroni, and, if you can get used to the bittersweet flavours, this is one of the most refreshing drinks you can order. The red vermouth adds some depth to the cocktail whilst taking the edge off of the Campari. The orange slice sets the drink off nicely. Overall, this is a delicious afternoon drink.
As a little bonus, I thought I’d write a little on Mathis and Vesper’s drinks, too.
Fine à l’eau
This is a cognac cocktail that was popular in France up until the end of the Second World War; perhaps this says something about Bond’s impression of Mathis?
1 part Cognac
No mention is made regarding what type of water is used, but it seems likely that it would have been the famed local mineral water of the fictitious Royale-les-Eaux. In the real world, I think Vittel water would be a good substitute.
The water works well with the cognac, making a soft and refreshing drink.
Given the dilution of the spirit, I was surprised at how much of the cognac’s flavour comes through; there are mellow wood notes and it tastes sophisticated. Altogether, this is rather tasty with a lasting flavour.
“Bacardi for the Girl”
Bond orders, rather ambiguously, “A Bacardi for the girl”. I had always assumed this to be a White Bacardi Rum served straight up. Unsure, I contacted an expert, Jeff Berry. He said that, although it was not uncommon for rum to be drunk neat in French cafés during the 1950s, given that the scene is set in the afternoon and in a hotel bar, he was in little doubt that it was actually in reference to the Bacardi Cocktail.
20ml Lime Juice
This drink is fresh and crisp; rather tart, but also very refreshing.
There is a little sweetness from the Grenadine. When I first saw this rather feminine, pink cocktail, I expected it to be very sickly, but once you’ve tasted it, you know otherwise: it’s a drink that can handle itself. Appearances can be deceptive; it fits the character perfectly.
David T Smith runs the blog Summer Fruit Cup, looking at all things related to drink and drinking. Topics covered include tasting and reviews, cocktail history and vintage bar-ware.