Hard-Times Hero: Americano's Champion Bartender Shakes Up Depression-Era Classics

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SanFranAnnie via Flickr
The Sidecar: A classic for shaky times
On Monday we blogged about Ronaldo Colli, the Americano bartender who walked away with both the technical and overall awards locally in this year's US Bartenders' Guild Association contest during Cocktail Week (he won another technical award in the national competition). We checked in with him today, post victory, to see what's shakin' -- and being shaken - behind his bar.

Happy-hour specials are the sliver lining of the economic crisis. At Americano they're taking the form of $6 cocktails inspired, appropriately enough, by the Great Depression. There's the Sidecar, a drink said to have been invented by an American army captain living in Paris during World War I. Americano's version is classic to the core: brandy, oj, Cointreau, and lemon juice, shaken and served up in a sugar-rimmed martini glass. It's a warming beverage for chilly nights when you want to pinch a penny (assuming you consider a six-dollar cocktail affordable). Colli's brandy of choice is Italian label, Stock 84.

The house drink -- the Americano, of course -- is another Depression-era fave, supposedly named for the Americans who co-opted it from Italians during Prohibition. Served on the rocks, it's simply a slice of orange, sweet vermouth, Campari, and club soda, pleasingly uncomplicated in the age of molecular mixology. To go with these, the restaurant is offering $3 antipasti, including spicy roasted cashews and marinated mushrooms.

Want to try the drink Colli wowed the judges with at the USBG competition? It's the Kama Sutra, but you won't find it at Americano, not yet, anyway. He recommended Cantina, Nopa, Absinthe, and 15 Romolo as the best places to sample it. With aƱejo tequila, mescal, and green Chartreuse, it just might help you forget the still-tanking economy. At least temporarily.

Americano Restaurant & Bar 8 Mission (at The Embarcadero), 278-3777
Happy hour specials available 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight, Sat.-Wed.

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