What is Campari?:
Campari is a bitter Italian aperitif
. It is a proprietary blend of herbs and spices, is a brilliant red color, and has an extremely unique flavor which may take some getting used to (see Developing a Campari Palate below).
The 'secret' recipe was originally developed in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in the town of Novara, Italy near Milan. Campari was fond of experimenting with new beverages and the development of this particular bitter played an integral role in changing the custom of drinking digestifs after a meal into a pre-meal custom. Campari remains an iconic before dinner drink ingredient.
Developing a Campari Palate:
Campari does have a very unique flavor, one that can take some getting used to. It's prominant flavor is that of a strong bitter orange similar to if you were to drop orange bitters directly on your tongue. It has many uses in cocktails, though for those unaccostumed to the taste Campari-forward drinks like the popular Negroni, Americano, or Campari and Soda (see Campari Cocktails below) can be overwhelming.
If you have tried one of those drinks and found them to be too bitter, please do not discount Campari altogether. In multiple experiments (including my own) I have found that for some individuals it is best to introduce Campari gently. I often suggest that people begin with Campari and orange juice (built like a Screwdriver) or a similar fruit-forward drink such as Bobby "G" Gleason's Fresh Squeeze. You will find the bitterness is softened and you can slowly build your palate to include Campari in a purer form. This slow integration works almost every time and, though it may take a few years, it is worth the journey for achieving a more sophisticated palate.
Campari is often served on the rocks or in simple cocktails such as the Campari and Soda and Negroni. It is used in a number of classic cocktails and though it is frequently paired with gin, works well with other base liquors
such as whiskey and vodka.
Campari and Art:
Campari's advertising campaigns have always been interesting but it was the integration of art and advertising around the turn of the 20th century that truly turned the tide. The campaigns that have been developed in the last 100+ years are some of the most memorable, even outside of the alcohol industry, and they continue today. The classic advertising posters from Campari are some of the most memorable of their time and, more recently, thematic calendars and campaigns have been produced starring celebrities such as Eva Mendes, Jessica Alba, and Salma Hayek in a series of stunning photographs.
Campari in Food:
- Italian bitter aperitif made of a secret infusion of herbs.
- 20.5%-28% alc/volume (dependent on country distributed in)
- Retails for around $23/750ml bottle
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