If you’ve been following the blog carefully, you’ll get a sense of what bottles are lined up at our home bars. One of them was mentioned back in May, in the Negroni post. That bottle, of course, is Campari. Those who like the stuff, like it a lot, but others are intimidated by the thought of a bitter drink and need some time to develop an appreciation for its flavours. I hope you’ve had the chance to make a Negroni, because it is rather delicious and it may just sway you. Go make yourself one right now! I’ll wait, and then you can enjoy it while you read on.
Mmm… delicious, right?
Campari is an Italian aperitif with roots back to the 19th century in Novara, Italy (just west of Milan). That’s where Gaspare Campari first took a sip of his unique concoction in 1860. It is a fruit and herbal infusion with a bold, bitter taste. It’s flavour is inspired by that of an Italian bitter orange, Chinotto.
An aperitif is is a beverage, typically alcoholic, made with stomachic ingredients. These beverages help induce appetite, and prepare the palate for the meal. That sounds great, but we at FMMS don’t discriminate like that, we drink it before, during, and after dinner too.
Taste is not Campari’s only distinctive attribute. It is also characterized by its deep red colouring. The original recipe used a natural food dye called carmine dye. This standard red food dye is an extract from the cochineal beetles. Either because they didn’t want it to be called “Beetle Juice” or because there have been allergic reactions to carmine dye, The Campari Group began to artificially colour it in 2006.
The combination of complex flavours and appealing colour make it a great addition to many cocktails which earns this classic liqueur a permanent spot in our bars.
Don’t have campari on hand? Well, that’s sort of OK. There are a few other liqueurs that you could use as substitutes. These include:
- Martini Bitter
- Luxardo aperitivo
- Casoni aperitivo
- Nardini Bitter
Now let me be clear, each one of those has their own distinct flavours, alcohol by volume(ABV), and they bring their own “thang” to the table. Just because I said you could use it doesn’t mean that you should. If you can get your hands on some of these, why not try them out and see what you like or dislike? For example, Aperol (also owned by the Campari group) is often compared to Campari, yet because it has less alcohol (11% vs. Campari’s 25%), it tastes sweeter and the bitter flavour is quite different. We prefer Campari, but feel free to give us your personal preference in the comments below.
Below are just a few Campari recipes to get your started. If you like these below we should be friends. You’ll notice when making these that Campari really does overtake the drink, both in colour and in taste – but don’t let it put you off after one drink. Give the Campari the chance to let the flavours hypnotize your tastebuds. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Cheers!
The King of Campari cocktails is of course The Negroni. So much so that we gave it its own post with some delicious variations. Check it out here.
The Yet-to-be-Named Campari Cocktail
This is one of my go to refreshing cocktails at the moment. It came to be when the bartender at The Moonroom, in Ottawa, Ontario, gave me a variation of another one of their cocktails. This is an easy one to drink, but don’t be fooled, you will feel it if your drink it too quickly.
1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
½ oz Simple syrup
½ oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Rosemary sprig for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the ingredients. Shake to combine the flavours. Add garnish. Serve in a rocks glass with several large ice cubes to the top (this will allow the Rosemary to just sit under the nose while sipping).
Corpse Reviver #3
This cocktail has many variations, but #3 is by far my favourite. Serve it to your brandy-loving friends and they’ll love you for it. It has a kick the preceding cocktail just can’t touch.
1 oz Cognac (or any Brandy will do)
1 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
1 oz Campari
½ oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Lemon twist for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the ingredients. Shake well to combine the flavours. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Add garnish.
Add “a splash”
This is not quite a cocktail recipe but rather a little trick I like to use when heading down south on vacation. Often your poolside bars may be more accustomed to pushing sugar slush in various different colours. This could end in a real disaster for your palette (not to mention your blood-sugar levels!).
Using this trick is an easy method to keep the sugar out of your mouth, but keep you boozin’. It got me through what could have ended in a complete Sugar-geddon, and I now owe one of my lives to Campari. There are few things worse than sugar crashing on vacation.
- Choose your favourite “clear” highball such Gin & Tonic, Vodka Soda, etc.
- Add or Ask your bartender for a “splash” or up to about ½ oz of Campari
- Garnish with lemon or lime wedge
- Thank me
Now that you’ve read a few of the different recipes that feature Campari you should feel more than comfortable picking up a bottle to try it out. It should be a staple of everyone’s home bar.