First, what is an Americano and how is it made?
If you go to your local coffee house and order an Americano, it may seem like you’ve ordered something poetic or dare I say artistic. However, an Americano is normally a twelve ounce cup of hot water with two shots of espresso added. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Sure, but purveyors of the Americano have their own theories about the temperature of the water, if it’s better to put the water in first or after the espresso…to name a few particulars. But for our purposes today, have you ever stopped to ask yourself how the Americano came to be? Or more precisely,
How Did the Americano get it’s name?
Let’s set the scene.
It’s the height of World War II. The American allies have joined the fight. The military men and women stationed in Italy, found that coffee was easy to come by in this part of the world. In the states, rationing had taken a toll. According to History.com, “On January 30, 1942, the Emergency Price Control Act granted the Office of Price Administration (OPA) the authority to set price limits and ration food and other commodities in order to discourage hoarding and ensure the equitable distribution of scarce resources. By the spring, Americans were unable to purchase sugar without government-issued food coupons. Vouchers for coffee were introduced in November, and by March of 1943, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk and other processed foods were added to the list of rationed provisions.”
I imagine, being in a country where coffee was one of the prideful attributes, might have been a helpful distraction. However, it turned out the espresso of Italy was not the tame home brew the G.I.’s were used to. The cup of Joe they yearned for was a smooth large cup of brewed beans. Espresso is somewhat bitter and Europeans did not linger over their espresso shots in the morning. The other option in Italy is a cappuccino, which might have solved the problem for some soldiers, but not for everyone.
The baristas of the Italian coffee houses, wanting to aid the soldiers who had come to their aid, fixed this problem of a bitter quick shot of intense coffee. They started to offer a small pitcher of hot water to accompany the espresso.
As the war continued, and the American G.I.’s continued to populate cafes, it became easier for the cashiers, when passing along an order, to just call the espresso drink with a side of hot water an “Americano”. That was who the drink was for anyway.
This unconfirmed legend is based on retold folklore really, but has become the standard when explaining how espresso and hot water came to be called an Americano.
Enjoy fun coffee facts like this? Find more at Always A Cappuccino.