Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics



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:


Campari clown

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.

25 Responses to “Campari”

  1. ABCDEF | The Straight Up

    […] cocktail, making for a nice color and lighter flavor which goes well with dry Dolin vermouth. The Campari and Fernet serve almost more as bitters, although they add significant flavor to the cocktail, […]

  2. Scorched Earth | The Straight Up

    […] and Negroni are two of my favorite cocktails, both of which share one of my favorite ingredients, Campari. While the end product of this concoction is a variation, it started out a bit different. I was […]

  3. Side by Side – Bitter Orange Spirits | The Straight Up

    […] Campari is one of my favorite ingredients, but lately I have been seeing a lot of cocktails made with Gran Classico. Even some bartenders saying they prefer it to Campari. I have enjoyed Gran Classico mixed in cocktails out, but have never tried it on its own. The obvious question burned: could this actually be better than Campari? […]

  4. Eloquent Gentleman | The Straight Up

    […] mentioned, I really enjoy Gran Classico, but found that directly substituting it into classics for Campari made for something a bit too sweet for my taste. This held true in one of my favorite cocktails, […]

  5. The Study | The Straight Up

    […] revived thanks to some great folks in Oregon. Notes of quinine and orange, I know you are thinking Campari, but this one is considerably sweeter (remember it’s a Liqueur after […]

  6. Calisaya | The Straight Up

    […] learned that Calisaya was a bittersweet orange Italian amaro, made from Cinchona. As a bitter/Campari addict, I knew I needed to try some. Unfortunately, I also learned that Calisaya hadn’t been […]

  7. Takeoff | The Straight Up

    […] Luck). Mike Ryan, top dog at Sable, made me a weird Negroni riff with Malort for gin, Aperol for Campari and Creme de Cacoa for Vermouth. It might have been fizzy. He called it the […]

  8. Sugar and Grass | The Straight Up

    […] the beaten path. I tried a variety of base spirits, but ultimately Cachaca won (plus my friends at Campari sent me a bottle of Sagatiba a while back, which I have selfishly been hoarding to myself). Plus if […]

  9. From A to B | The Straight Up

    […] some friends. I pumped up the anise flavor with some absinthe and dropped in a few of my buddies, Campari and Fernet-Branca to amp up the bitterness. The Hopped Grapfruit bitters from Bittermens adds to […]

  10. New Friend | The Straight Up

    […] twist on the classic Old Pal cocktail uses lighter-flavored Aperol instead of Campari, and brings in bitter Cocchi Americano in the place of dry vermouth. It’s an easy-drinking […]

  11. E.van Duyn

    We had a group of friends in the 80s called ourselves ‘the Camparians’…….no more after the formula was changed…….what a disgrace !


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