What Is Campari?
You’re probably familiar with the classic Campari bottle, it’s what St. Germaine is to Elderflower liqueur. That is to say, a brand that has capitalized on a liqueur and made themselves, pretty much, the main distributor and producer. Campari is a staple in any bar and a traditional drink in its home country of Italy. If we’ve learned anything this far is that Italians know their liqueurs, so let’s dive right in.
As aforementioned, Campari is an alcoholic liqueur, categorized as an apéritif. It is made from the infusion/distilling of certain herbs and fruits. The more common recipe calls for the use of the chinotto fruit and the cascarilla plant. We’re not from Italy either so let us explain: The chinotto can be easily compared to an orange, as they are both citrus fruits, but as you may have guessed it- it’s more bitter. The cascarilla plant is simply an herb native to the caribbean and the Americas, which is also one of the main ingredients in Vermouth.
Campari is a bitter liqueur and it has a wide range of ABV starting as low as 20.5% and going up to 28.5%, the exact number all depends in the country where it is sold. It’s widely used in cocktails and commonly served with soda water or citrus juice, or with prosecco as a spritz. It is produced by the Davide Campari Group, a multinational company based in- you guessed it- Italy!
Within the Italian market, Campari is mostly known to me mixed with soda water and sold in individual bottles as Campari Soda (10% alcohol by volume). Campari Sodas are distinctively packaged by a beautiful bottle designed by Fortunato Depero in 1932.
You’d recognize it in a number of staple/classic cocktails such as a Negroni, an Americano, or Garibaldi. Both the Negroni and Americano cocktails are listed into the IBA Official drinks list, in The Unforgettable category.
A brief history
In 1860 a man named Gaspare Campari from Novara, Italy is credited with inventing Campari. Back then, the distinctive color was due to the use of carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal insects, which provided the drink with its distinctive red color. Yep, basically bug’s blood… The rest of the recipe has and still is a trade secret.
Gaspare knew he was on to something, so in 1867 he opened up his own bar in the city center next to the famous Florence Cathedral- Duomo. He named it the “Camparino,” and it was an instant hit. Florence was a mecca for art and cultural life in Milan, so the same became true of Gaspare’s bar and it’s odd blood colored bitter drinks.
Fast forward to October 1st 1904, Campari’s first production plant was opened in Sesto San Giovanni (still near Milan). Led by David Campari, Gaspare’s son, the company finally began exporting the beverage. The first place was in Nice, within the heart of the French Riviera, and then they exported overseas.
Once Campari made its way into classic cocktails, it couldn’t be stopped. Even it’s labels, commercials, and ads became a staple in art and advertising culture, with one such commercial hanging in the New York Museum of Modern Art. It became a single of high-class Italian culture and some of the most renowned models, actresses/actors, directors, and culture icons have professed their love for it. Nowadays, Campari is distributed in over 190 countries.
Campari Vs. Aperol:
Campari might often get confused for it’s orange cousin- Aperol. You’re not the only one, though there are some distinct differences you can spot right away.
-Aperol is lighter in color. It’s missing that bloody look that Campari has.
-Campari is double in ABV than Aperol.
-They taste different. Aperol is sweeter, and therefore less dominant in a cocktail.
Enchant your friends with your drink knowledge this Halloween by ordering a bloody, Italian drink and teleporting your tastebuds to an Italian villa via Campari. Now that you know the best cocktails containing Campari, it’s up to you to go try them and let us know which one you enjoyed the most.
Thanks for reading, and as always…