Cocchi Americano

February 23rd, 2009

You’ll have to forgive my recent silence… unfortunately February hasn’t been a great month in many ways and I’ve been busy dissolving the remains of a long-term relationship with the help of a few friends – shopping, chocolate and, er, real friends. However while I haven’t been writing about cocktails all that much I’ve certainly been consuming my fair share so I’ve got plenty of things to talk about, starting with Cocchi Americano. But first let us take a side step and look at Lillet.

Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano bottles

The Lillet brothers, Paul and Raymond, started business in 1872 in Podensac near Bordeaux, initially making jams and marmalades before moving on to creating liqueurs, eaux de vie and even Cognac. In 1887 there was a bumper harvest in Bordeaux so the brothers brought up some of the surplus to create an aromatised tonic wine, and so Kina Lillet was born. The recipe was always kept secret, but is known to have used a blend of Bordeaux wines in addition to quinine and eaux de vie of various fruits.

Kina Lillet was very popular during the first half of the twentieth century, however in the later half sales declined and eventually in 1986 the recipe was reformulated, reducing the amount of quinine, in an attempt to have more appeal with modern drinkers. This modern recipe, known at Lillet Blanc, is what is still available today and while it is a perfectly delicious wine-based spirit the flavour of classic Kina Lillet is something of a holy grail for classic cocktail aficionados.

Erik Ellestad, who is currently working his way through every cocktail in the The Savoy Cocktail Book, has long been in search of an equivalent for Kina Lillet and happened across an aperitif called Cocchi Americano in his local off-license. Excited to find it tasted similar to Lillet Blanc only with more spice and bitterness, he shared his findings on eGullet where someone with an original bottle of Kina Lillet compared the two and found them very similar.

When I read of Erik’s findings I immediately searched in hope of finding Cocchi Americano for sale somewhere here in the UK, but alas couldn’t find any mention of it. However, one dull Friday afternoon at work I was idly searching Google when I stumbled across a wine merchant in the UK that had Cocchi Americano on their stock list. Being an on-trade merchant I feared the worst, but with fingers-crossed enquired about purchasing a few bottles. Thankfully a week or so later after a few emails and an exchange of credit card details I was in possession of Cocchi Americano.

Kina cocktail

Kina Cocktail

View in: oz | ml | shots

I was delighted to find that the Cocchi does indeed have much in common with Lillet Blanc like the strong orange taste, but with the addition of more bitterness, particularly in the finish, and more spice. I quickly set about trying it in one of my favourite cocktails using Lillet, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, and was amazed. A Corpse Reviver made with Lillet is wonderful, make no mistake, but with Cocchi Americano it was simply sublime.

I’ve since tried it in several other classic cocktails that called for Lillet and each time the drink has been improved with Cocchi. Indeed some drinks, like the lovely Kina cocktail above, only really work properly with Cocchi. Even the Vesper, a drink I was previously thoroughly unimpressed with, I found quite enjoyable with the added bitter depth of this new spirit. I’ve not had the chance to try original Kina Lillet, but whether Cocchi tastes like it or not this is certainly a wonderful spirit to make use of in cocktails.

Sadly at the moment Cocchi Americano is very difficult to get hold of – even Erik now struggles to find stock having very kindly, but rather unfortunately for him, revealed his sources. Thankfully though I have it on good authority, indeed the horse’s mouth (so to speak), that Cocchi Americano should, all being well, be returning to American shores later this year. Meanwhile if you’re after some here in Britain drop me a line and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. As soon as I’ve stocked up myself, of course… ;)

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Posted in Gin, Lillet, Recipes, Reviews, Vermouth

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23 responses to “Cocchi Americano”

  1. Blushing Hostess Blushing Hostess says:

    Long time lurker – first time commenter. Just wanted to tell you that I am glad you’re back. Be well, The Hostess

  2. Jeremy Brooks Jeremy Brooks says:

    I’ll have to find a bottle of this. Kina Lillet was one of the ingredients in James Bond’s Vesper (if you have not read the book Casino Royale, you need to read it NOW).

    James Bond’s original Vesper martini:
    “Just a moment. 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?”

  3. Emma Davis Emma Davis says:

    Thanks for great and informative blog, where does one find this interesting product?

  4. Gonçalo Gonçalo says:

    very interesting, Jay, and an excellent idea for the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

  5. The Concierge The Concierge says:

    I wonder whether in absence of Cocchi, one can create a similar flavor profile with Lillet, orange bitters and some carmelized orange zest. What are the characteristics of the “more spice” that is referenced above, is it a carmelized type flavor?

    On an unrelated note, Jay, how do you keep all of these bottles of vermouth and other fortified wines fresh.

  6. Dutch Courage Dutch Courage says:

    http://www.bava.com/cocchi/ita/americac.htm for more infos..

  7. erik_flannestad erik_flannestad says:

    Heh, we just call them “liquor stores” here not “off licenses”.

    Good news about the availability of Cocchi in the US! I can’t wait.

    I also have found almost no cocktails which call for “Kina Lillet” which aren’t significantly improved with the use of Cocchi Americano.

    Another classic cocktail which really surprised me was the “Hoots Mon”:

    “Hoots Mon” Cocktail

    1/4 Kina Lillet. (1/2 oz Cocchi Americano)
    1/4 Italian Vermouth. (1/2 oz Carpano Antica)
    1/2 Scotch Whisky. (1 oz Famous Grouse)

    Stir well in ice and strain.

    However, don’t use Cocchi Americano in modern cocktails designed for Lillet Blanc. The one time I’ve tried it, with Pegu Club’s White Negroni, it was downright awful.

  8. Mike S. Mike S. says:

    Jeeze, another post about the fabulous (and thus far for me, mythical) Cocchi Americano. I really hope it shows up in America again — I wants a bottle (or three) and I wants it now!

  9. Louis A. Louis A. says:

    I’m jealously guarding my last bottle until it shows up in the US again.

    Indeed, it is excellent in a Vesper. Use a high proof gin (Junipero has worked best for me), and with apologies to Bond, stir, and an orange twist.

  10. Victor Victor says:

    So the question remains, how do I get a hold of a bottle in UK?

    Thanks for the great blog!!

  11. Giuseppe Gallo Giuseppe Gallo says:

    Dear Aficionados,

    just back from a vermouth trip in Piemonte (Region in Italy where the Vermouth come from) and I was lucky to get a bottle of Cocchi Americano with me.
    Tonight we going to taste at Montgomery place, and then I will bring the bottle to the Purple bar.
    Next mouth i will meet up with Mr. Bava (Cocchi Owner) who promise me 6 bottle of Cocchi to take in UK.
    Also I forward him Oh Gosh Web Site, and I hope he will keep in touch with you all for your request.
    On mine time you are all welcome to the Purple bar for a nice Vesper!!

    keep drinking…

    Giuseppe Gallo

  12. fabio fabio says:

    Dear Mixers,

    i agree with your appreciation on the Cocchi Americano, it’s a great and rare product!!
    The Cocchi Spumanti Company ship theirs products only in Italy, but if you are interested we could try to find out a way to ship it to England aswell!!
    How much did you pay for a bottle in UK??

  13. Jay Jay says:

    The Concierge – I keep a few bottles in the fridge (sadly my house mates forbid me from more than a few), the others I keep sealed with a Vacuvin stoppers. It’s not a perfect system, but thankfully vermouths are generally cheap enough to dump and replace if going bad.

    Erik – I Americanize here so much already, I thought this time I would stand up for the good, old fashioned British off licence! ;)

    Totally agree about Kina Lillet being better replaced by Cocchi than Lillet Blanc. The Hoots Mon sounds interesting to say the least, and I love the name.

    Giuseppe – I am interested to hear what you think of the Cocchi. I really must call in to the Purple Bar again soon.

    Fabio – it’s interesting to hear you say they only ship to Italy, as a wine merchant here sells it – not sure how they get hold of it. The price is around £12 ex. VAT. Wider availability here in the UK would be great though.

  14. Fabio Fabio says:

    Hi Jay, concerning the shipment method apply by Cocchi Spumanti Company is written on their website that they only ship in Italy, but if you local merchant knows how to get hold of it ,much better!!!
    Have fun and keep it up!!

  15. kay kay says:

    My American friend is trying to find some Cocchi for a present – can’t find it in the U.S. and has asked me to source it here. Can you let me know where I might find it?
    Thanks in advance.

  16. Butters Butters says:

    Just checked out the Haus-Alpenz website and this stuff will be available in the states in early 2010. Can’t wait to try it!

  17. Happy Hour: “Hoots Mon” Cocktail – umamimart says:

    [...] the game changed, as Bay Area based bartender Erik Ellestad seems to have stumbled upon what other respected mixologists have verified as the adequate substitute for Kina Lillet, a specimen called Cocchi Americano. It [...]

  18. Tim F Tim F says:

    Just been told by our buyer that we’ll be stocking Cocchi Americano at TWE very shortly at £14.95. Can’t wait to try a Hoots Mon, although I might have to upgrade to a single malt for that, especailly if using the Antica Formula. Any ideas what would be best? I’ll probably start with Ardbeg 10yo and Glenlivet Nadurra and work towards the middle.

  19. Giuseppe Gallo Giuseppe Gallo says:

    Dear Folks,

    I can confirm to you all that the Americano Cocchi will be available from specialitydrink shortly, the first cargo just left Italy and will be in UK by the next week.

    More details will follow the launch of the products in London very soon.

    For any inquire please feel free to contact me

    - Jay, few bottles are already on the side for you!!

    Thanks and Regards

    Giuseppe

  20. Randy Randy says:

    Speaking of Savoy cocktails… The Cocchi Americano works really well in a Roy Howard!

  21. Lisa Lisa says:

    If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area in the USA, you can get it from K&L Wines.

    I myself prefer Lillet Blanc on its own to Cocchi Americano on its own (or close to — i.e., with soda and a lemon peel), but Cocchi Americano makes a much much better Vesper than Lillet Blanc does.

  22. Corpse Reviver #2. Ein Totgesagter feiert Wiederauferstehung. says:

    [...] Die losgetretene Welle kam im Februar 2009 auch bei Hepburn an und er konstatierte: „A Corpse Reviver made with Lillet is wonderful, make no mistake, but with Cocchi Americano it was simply [...]

  23. Daniel Klingenbrunn: Wider das Vergessen von Quinquina – Cocchi Americano | Trinklaune says:

    [...] http://ohgo.sh/archive/cocchi-americano-kina-lillet-blanc/ [...]

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