BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE
These days its popular to put just about anything in your cocktail... tarragon. Peppers.
But before all of this avant-garde experimentation there was beetle juice. That's right, bug carcasses gave Campari, a liquor cabinet essential, its distinctively red hue. A little insect protein in a cocktail never hurt anyone, right?
If you are like me, and imbibing dead bugs doesn't make your mouth water, you are in luck. Campari now uses artificial coloring -- much to the joy of beetles everywhere. Cocktail purists are still mourning the loss.
I bring up Campari because it is the defining ingredient in an Americano. American tourists in the late 1800's loved the cocktail so much that their Italian friends renamed it in their honor, or so the story goes.
So This Rodeo Clown Walks Into Bar
Imagine its circa 1920: a Count, a Rodeo Star, and a Clown all walk into a bar. Ok, actually it was just one guy, but he was basically all three of those things. He requested an Americano in Florence's Bar Casoni, but he told them to replace the usual soda water with gin. Perhaps his rugged frontier days had given him a taste for stiff drinks. In any case, Voila! The (Count) Negroni was born.
Meanwhile, back in America, Prohibition hit and bartenders fled the country for more "spirit-ual" pastures. One bartender opened his own place in Paris, calling it of all things, Harry's New York Bar. There he created the Boulevardier, named after a local magazine (it was the Editor's favorite). Essentially the cocktail was a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Another switcheroo and yet another classic was born in the Campari timeline.
ORSON WELLES HAD Bitter Campari Face
Italians say that you never forget the first time you try Campari. It seems this was at least true with Orson Welles, who tried a Negroni while filming in Italy. On his return to America he popularized the drink, saying, "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other."
However, if you want to go the James Bond route, stick with the Boulevardier... but Perrier only, please. It's almost as ubiquitous as the whole "shaken not stirred" thing. In his opinion expensive soda water was the cheapest way to improve a poor drink.
But you have science on your side. For some reason, this cocktail is known for being hard to mess up. Its a bitter cocktail to swallow, but you won't regret it.