Opened earlier this year, The Americano is inspired by iconic Italian steakhouses across the country yet infuses its own modern twist on the concept—all with great success. Billed as modern in its approach and techniques yet Italian in spirit, the 7,000-square-foot space has an open kitchen with a wood-fired grill. The spacious dining room features crescent-shaped booths as well as butcher block-style tables and modern art throughout. The color palette includes dark grays and light greens.
And then there is the expansive bar. Inside the bar and lounge there is a sizeable island, and almost all seats offer a view of the large outdoor patio area. After homing in on guests’ preferences, the team recently launched a new cocktail experience.
We recently sat down with Jacqueline Verge, who is a mixology master at the Scott Conant-helmed concept, to learn more about her rise as well as the evolving cocktail program at the property.
How did you get into this career?
I started my hospitality career as a hostess at an Italian restaurant when I was 18. I had just finished my high school and dancing career and was finally able to balance a work schedule along with beginning my college experience at ASU. I quickly started finding a love for the hospitality industry and realized greeting and seating guests wasn’t enough busy work for me (keep in mind I danced 40 hours a week while keeping up with schoolwork). I asked to become a busser and, honestly, I was laughed at because the managers doubted that me being a girl could accomplish such a job. They ate their words. Literally apologized to my face! Anyway, I slowly progressed along the restaurant ladder, moving into the market area to work on charcuterie, espresso, takeouts, etc., and then when I was old enough (19 at the time) I pursued becoming a server. Eventually, this landed me at a cigar bar (of all places), where I spent three years training under and working alongside my current colleague, Christopher Cuestas, a mentor.
What’s the oddest drink order you’ve had?
In the past two months, I’ve been asked twice for a smoked Diet Coke. Umm, what? To give perspective, we have a cocktail smoking program where we use a cherry wood smoker, but it’s for the cocktails.
Oddest ingredient you’ve used in a cocktail?
Our first cocktail list at The Americano featured a prosciutto washed Malfy Gin with a cantaloupe shrub. Yes, prosciutto. In a cocktail. And no, it wasn’t a bloody mary. But it actually turned out great. A close second would be all the fresh pumpkin we are peeling (not carving) to use as an ingredient in our Basic BB.
What does ordering a vodka tonic say about a person?
I would say it likely means the person likes things simple—and they want the cocktail fast. And trust me, I’m right there with that person sometimes, although personally, I enjoy a Drumshanbo gin and tonic versus the vodka version.
Favorite memory working behind the bar?
If I had to pick, it might be when one of my regulars will ask for her “you know what I like” cocktail. This 100% means “you know I love it all, just do your thing because I trust you” cocktail. Walking around the bar tapping my chin with my finger, and seemingly staring off in a gaze while my creative gears turn, and putting together some creative new flavors she hasn’t had yet is my absolute favorite. But the memory itself is watching her reaction, the sheer disbelief in her eyes that all those flavors are working together in such harmony. I live for that look.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the industry?
I have a few. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to know every cocktail in existence. You will break glasses. You will forget ingredients. Each mistake is a lesson to be learned and to grow from. Perfection lies in how you strive to attain it.
Tell us about the Americano’s current cocktail program.
We are Italian in spirit—figuratively and literally in many cases—and we sweat the small stuff to make it special for you. Expect hand-blown crystal Riedel glassware, state-of-the-art equipment and tools, precise execution and visual delivery. We are unique in that we seek small-batch, hand-crafted and hard-to-find Italian liquors and spirits in every way possible. The overall vision is straight forward: Create balanced, innovative cocktails that are visually striking while pushing the palate to experience new creative limits and boundaries.
What is one drink you want us to feature this month?
The Basic BB.
Why do you like this cocktail?
Because it is fall in a glass.
The Americano, 17797 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480.573.0001, theamericanorestaurant.com.
The Basic BB
2 ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Black Rum
1/2 ounce Borghetti Caffé Liqueur
1/4 ounce St. Elizabeth All Spice Dram
1 ounce pumpkin simple syrup (we make ourselves using pumpkin peels)
Shake all the ingredients in a shaker tin and pour into a white coupe. Garnish with a caramelized candy disk and edible gold leaf.