By now, the tale's been told often enough that it's morphed into legend: American GIs, stationed in Italy during the Second World War, needed a jolt to get going in the morning (#relatable), but found the region's coffee too strong. So they did what the savvy do—they improvised—adding hot water to the drink to create a concoction that wasn't, well, coffee, exactly, but may have been closer to what they were otherwise used to drinking at home.
Fast forward seventy-five years or so and the Americano remains a staple, and it's still...not quite coffee.
Perhaps the most interesting anecdote (beyond the idea that Americans were so motivated to approximate coffee that they'd pour water in espresso to mimic it) is the notion that the Americano has been suggested as a sort of cultural exchange: the Americans brought jazz, the Europeans flipped that for an Old World take on espresso (which the Americans co-opted, but still).
And if you love trivia, you can reverse the process of the Americano and craft a totally different drink. To make a Long Black, add espresso to an existing glass of hot water, making the drink 'long' and diluting it.
How to Make An Americano
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Maybe your Grandpa wasn't in Europe in the 40s, but we're guessing if he were, he'd have given the Americano a shot -
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Hollywood has done a fine job of drilling the coffee stereotype into our minds...you've seen it: a customer saunters into the diner, throws a couple of quarters onto the counter...and a cup of plain joe comes sliding into frame.
But as strong as black coffee can be, it's training wheels compared to The Black Eye.