Known for its dark red color and bitter orange flavor, Campari is instantly recognizable, holding a place in history as one of the most unique and well advertised spirits ever created.
Orange and sweet on the nose with an almost effervescent bitter scent. The sweet orange carries through up upfront to the palate, but is quickly replaced by a powerful, lingering bitter finish with herbal and earthy accents. Campari is great neat, on the rocks or mixed with club soda, depending on your level of appreciation for its bitter finish.
Varies from 43-57 proof (21.5-28.5% ABV) depending on country. In the US, Campari is 48 proof (24%ABV).
A Few Campari Cocktails:
- The Classics:
- New Originals:
- The Borrowed:
This bitter aperitif was created in 1840s by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy, who in 1860 founded the Gruppo Campari to produce and distribute his product. Gaspare had been experimenting with different ingredients and herbal infusions for years until perfecting his recipe for Campari. Its signature color was originally obtained from carmine dye, which was produced from crushed cochineal insects. In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that the carmine dye was dropped in favor of artificial coloring. Beyond this change, Campari is otherwise still produced using Gaspare’s original specifications, utilizing a closely guarded secret recipe of various herbs, barks and fruits infused into alcohol and water.
Shortly after its creation, Campari gained popularity in nearby Milan at Gaspare’s “Caffe Campari,” which helped solidify its presence as an aperitif. Other Italian bars began selling and advertising Campari, further aiding its success. As the brand expanded in Italy, Gaspare’s son, Davide, began exporting the bitter orange aperitif to other European countries in the 1920s. It wasn’t until after prohibition that Campari was imported to the United States.
While many Campari fans may enjoy Campari neat or on the rocks, the powerful aperitif is often initially overpowering to those unaccustomed to its bitter taste. To appeal to a broader audience, Campari is often mixed with club soda to lighten the taste. Aware of this phenomenon, the Campari Group created Camparisoda, a prebottled Campari and club soda in 1932. Its unique color and bottle are eye catching, setting it apart on store shelves, and is still popular in Italy today.
As one of the most successful beverage companies, the Campari Group, has continued to dominate the market with its flagship Campari as well as numerous acquisitions, including other amari, vermouths and even the American whiskey company, Wild Turkey.
Campari’s great success can be attributed to both its unique product as well as its advertising campaign. The bitter orange taste is unlike other spirits and is essential in popular classics, such as the Negroni and Americano. Its bright red color is an advertisement itself, making Campari stand out in stores as well as in cocktails. The innumerable vintage advertisements for Campari are still popular today, prominently featured in bars and restaurants throughout the world.