header home Backbar Bar Station Recipe Database Month's Feature "Drink-o-pedia" Mixology Contact




By Robert Plotkin

CAMPARI is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2010. In the century and a half since its inception, the Italian apéritif has become an international phenomenon and a fixture on backbars across every inhabited continent. Incomparable as it may be as a digestive, its distinctive personality has also made CAMPARI one of the fundamental building blocks in mixology.

The apéritif is still produced according to the original 1860 recipe created by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. According to the company, only one person has access to the formula in its entirety. What is known is that CAMPARI is an infusion of 60 different herbs, spices, gentian and orris root, angostura and cascarilla bark, aromatic botanicals and fruit—primarily lemons and bitter oranges—and alcohol. Its trademark deep red hue was originally obtained using carmine dye, which is derived from cochineal insects. In 2006, the extract was replaced with an alternative coloring.

The reasons behind CAMPARI's universal success are many, but none are more readily apparent then when it's alone in a glass. The 48-proof apéritif has crystalline clarity, a striking crimson hue and a silky, light to medium-weight body. As one would expect, CAMPARI is highly aromatic with a balanced array of bitter earthy aromas and spicy semisweet fragrance. Its complex bouquet is both intriguing and amazingly satisfying. The apéritif quickly fills the mouth with a wondrous blast of warmth that bathes the palate with waves of dry, spicy, slightly bitter herbaceous flavors. As they slowly fade the presence of the bitter citrus makes its way to the forefront. The combined effect is glorious.

Sterling as CAMPARI is sipped neat or slightly chilled, the apéritif has also proven itself indispensable behind the bar. It is an integral ingredient in such classic cocktails as the Negroni (equal parts of CAMPARI, gin and sweet vermouth with a lemon twist) and the Americano (CAMPARI, sweet vermouth and club soda with an orange twist). Likely its most popular application is mixed with soda. That having been said, bartenders searching the backbar for the perfect ingredient to balance the character of their specialty cocktails are well advised to add in a spirit-restoring splash of CAMPARI.

There is nothing remotely like CAMPARI on this or any other planet. Kudos and here's to the next 150 years.