Liqueur Lowdown is a series that gives you the lowdown on different types of popular liqueurs – what they are, how they taste and how to use them in cocktails or otherwise! Liqueurs are a form of sweetened liquor that you can use to add flavor to your cocktails, or simply drink neat for a pre- and post-meal treat!
Company: Campari Group
ABV: 20-29% ABV
Flavour Classification: Herbal
Dominant Flavour Note: Bitter Orange
Base Spirit: Neutral Grain Alcohol
Country of Origin: Italy
What Is Campari? How Does Campari Taste?
Campari is a bitter Italian aperitif (i.e. drinks designed to be drunk before a meal). Its flavour is quite unique, with a distinctively strong bitterness that is complemented by a tint of citrus orange peel flavour. If you can get past the initial bitterness - which frankly, tends to grows on you - you'll notice some warming herbaceous spices of cloves and cinnamon on the backdrop.
How Is Campari Created?
Campari is made by infusing neutral alcohol and water with a mixture that is rumoured to contain around 80 types of herbs and flowers. The exact recipe is kept top secret, but we do know it includes oranges, rhubarb, and ginseng. Only known three individuals really know, and their identities are kept secret. The dry botanicals are soaked in water for two days before being steeped in alcohol for another fifteen days. The liquid is then drained off into a blending tank, at which point a sweetening syrup and red colouring is added.
Campari used to get its bold distinctive red color from the natural dye carmine, extracted from crushed chochineals insects. In 2006, the company switched to artificial colouring, citing an "uncertainty of supply".
Other Variations / Substitutes
The most commonly used substitute for Campari is Aperol. Apreol is also an Italian bitter, albeit with a brighter orange flavour, slightly lower-proof, and noticeably sweeter flavours. Contratto Bitter is also another option that offers similarly herbaceous complexity.
How To Use Campari
Considered to be a classic aperitif, you can enjoy Campari straight or on the rocks. New drinkers may at first be struck by its bitter note (which aids digestion we are told!), but the sweetness and orange flavours start to become more apparent the more you consume.
Campari is such an indispensable fixture of any bar cart that you're unlikely to run out of cocktails to use it with. Some oldies but goodies are:
- Classic Negroni: Mix 1 part gin, 1 part Campari and 1 part sweet vermouth into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with orange twist.
- The Boulevardier: This is a variation on the classic Negroni, but swaps out gin for whisky for a richer, more warming note. Mix 1.25 parts bourbon, 1 part Campari and 1 part sweet vermouth into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with an orange twist.
- Jungle Bird: Crafted for the former Kuala Lumpur Hilton hotel's Aviary Bar in the 1970s, this tropical rum-forward cocktail soon become a frequent feature on Tiki bar menus. Mix 6 parts rum, 3 parts Campari, 6 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts lime juice and 2 parts demerara syrup into a shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with a pineapple wedge.