Showcasing the unsung heroes and hidden ingredients of your favourite cocktails
I’ll be the first to admit it: As far as secret ingredients go, Campari is about as subtle as a brick through the proverbial window. Nevertheless, the iconically crimson liqueur – herbaceous, audacious, and divisive by design – is the bittersweet backbone of many an Italian classic cocktail: From the Negroni to the Garibaldi.
Campari belongs to a family of bitter Italian liqueurs known as apéritifs (or aperitivos, if we’re sticking with the Italian). Weighing in at a more than modest 24% ABV, Campari might well be considered Aperol’s older, bolder brother. First created by Gaspare Campari in 1860, the aperitivo boasts a singularly dry, orange bitterness every bit as distinctive as its copper-red hue. As intense as it is inimitable, Campari’s recipe is a delicate blend of chinotto, cascarilla and proprietary mix of herbs that can be enjoyed on the rocks, long, or as part of a cocktail.
Its endless versatility and distinctive heritage make Campari a firm favourite on both sides of the bar. Campari also plays the leading role in Italy’s most famous happy accident, the Negroni Sbagliato. A most fabled foul up, the drink is rumoured to have been invented at Milan’s Bar Basso by accident, when a bartender accidentally used sparkling wine instead of gin in their Negroni. Italian for ‘mistake’, the Sbagliato adds an accidental dose of buoyancy to the Negroni’s world-renowned bitterness. Mistake or not, it’s certainly worth a sip-it-and-see.
20ml Sweet Vermouth
Pour the Campari and a sweet vermouth of your choosing over ice and top with prosecco. Add an orange rind to garnish. Or, in true Steve Zissou fashion, you could always just have your unpaid intern serve it by the (rather large) glass on the rocks.
Words by Will Halbert
Images by Campari