Cocchi Americano Is a Hit With Bartenders For a Reason

The beloved cocktail ingredient is bitter, floral, and wildly versatile.

A fizz made with cocchi americano
Photo: Brent Hofacker / Getty Images

While you may already have vermouth and Lillet on your radar, let us introduce you to your new favorite aperitif: Cocchi Americano. Pronounced COKE-ee (not COACH-y), it's a darling of the cocktail community that shines on its own, with a splash of soda, or in any manner of classic cocktails, from white Negronis to ice-cold Vespers.

Scott Stroemer, the beverage director at Chicago's Galit, describes it as bitter yet sweet; floral, but loud and bold in flavor. He finds that just like Campari (or Beyoncé, or other single-name stars) it's hard to Cocchi it to anything but what it is.

What is Cocchi Americano?

"Cocchi Americano is an aperitif wine hailing from Italy's Piedmont region," explains Toronto-based bar consultant Juliana Wolkowski. The brand itself launched in 1891, and the recipe calls for a base of white wine fortified with alcohol then, "macerated with botanicals, including gentian, cinchona, bitter orange peel, rhubarb, juniper, coriander, rose and mace."

Matt Reysen, the bar director at NYC's Al Coro, gets a lot of chamomile, apple, and pear from Cocchi. "It has fruity, citrus-driven notes accompanied by spice, with a lightly bitter backbone — Americano actually refers to the Italian word 'Americante', which means bittered."

"It has an amazing balance of sweet, bitter, and herbal with a nice lift from the acidity in the wine," explains McLain Hedges, co-owner of Yacht Club in Denver. "It's full of white flowers and citrus, yet has enough herbaceousness and alcoholic structure to give it the ability to play well across the board in any number of cocktails. It's the perfect representation of power and finesse."

Is Cocchi Americano a Vermouth?

Though aromatized wines — like Cocchi, vermouth, quinquina, and Lillet — are made via similar processes, each drinks very differently. Stroemer points out the primary differences: "Quinquina calls for quinine as the primary bittering agent, vermouth uses wormwood, and Cocchi Americano calls for a base wine of Moscato d'Asti flavored with cinchona bark and citrus peel."

Another key difference? The sweetness levels. Cocchi Americano is bracingly bitter, while vermouth and Lillet are sweetened after fortification. "Lillet is subtle," says Stroemer. "Cocchi is bold."

Where to Buy Cocchi Americano?

While the product may be new to you, it's available largely where most spirits and wines are purchased. Your neighborhood bottle shop should have some, as should larger spirits stores.

How Do You Drink Cocchi Americano?

So you've got your bottle of Cocchi Americano. What do you do with it? "My preferred serve is in a fizz," says Wolkowski. "A wine glass packed with ice and topped with soda and a grapefruit twist." Reysen likes it in a spritz, instead of vermouth in a Martini, or a white Negroni, or just on ice with fresh citrus or an olive for garnish.

Hedges's favorite way — "besides a glass on ice with a splash of soda and a lemon twist" — is to use it in an easy mixed drink with your favorite spirit. "Add one part Cocchi, one part of your favorite spirit, then add a bit of squeezed citrus, sugar, and a little mint. If you have crushed ice handy, that will go a long way." He'll also use it as a replacement in cocktails that call for an aromatized wine, "especially in drinks that call for Lillet."

What is a Good Substitute for Cocchi Americano?

Cocchi and Lillet are historically linked. The original formula for Lillet, called Kina Lillet at the time, wasn't sweet — it was bitter and quinine-forward, just like Cocchi Americano.

"Kina Lillet was the original formula for the now Lillet Blanc," says Reysen. "Lillet dropped the quinine in their recipe in 1986 to greater appeal to the masses. Many bartenders in the last decade or so have chosen to opt for Cocchi Americano for classic cocktail recipes that may have called for Kina Lillet."

If you are making the swap, Stroemer says to proceed with caution. "Cocchi Americano can be overwhelming even at low volumes," he notes. As the flavors are bold, simple is better — over ice with soda, or mixed with gin or vodka in sours. Stroemer recently applied Cocchi in an Italian(ish) mojito: Cocchi Americano, grapefruit, lemon, mint, and sparkling water.

Ultimately, If you don't have Cocchi Americano, Lillet or white vermouth will do, but note that both are less bitter in profile.

Does Cocchi Americano Go Bad?

Yes! Just like any white wine (or vermouth), keep Cocchi Americano in the fridge after opening. It is fortified with a higher-proof alcohol that keeps it stable for longer than say, an open bottle of wine. That said, over time an opened bottle will start to lose flavor and the botanicals will become more muted.

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