There’s more to the two Italian aperitifs than you might think.

May 31, 2017

When it comes to summertime cocktails, it’s hard to beat a Negroni or Aperol Spritz. Both are decidedly refreshing without being particularly sweet. It’s easy to assume that Campari and Aperol, the two Italian aperitifs that define the cocktails, which today are both owned by Gruppo Campari, are interchangeable. However, that is certainly not the case. Here are the differences between the two.

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They come from different places.

The Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio, originally created Aperol in 1919 in the Italian city of Padua. Roughly 145 miles west in Milan, and 59 years prior, Gaspare Camapri invented his namesake bitter.

They are different colors.

Aperol and Campari are easy to spot due to their bright colors. While the origins of Aperol’s red-orange hue are intentionally shrouded in mystery, Campari’s radiant bright red used to come from carmine dye, which was derived from crushed cochineal insects. However, Gruppo Campari ceased using carmine in its production in 2006.

They taste different.

Aperol is certainly the sweeter of the two and contains hints of bitter orange and both gentian and cinchona flowers. Campari, however, is significantly more bitter with hints of rhubarb, berries and a floral bouquet of potent (and mysterious) herbs.

They have different alcohol contents.

An easy way to remember this key difference is to keep the two aperitifs’ colors in mind; the redder the bitter, the more alcohol it possesses. Aperol is only 11 percent ABV, except in Germany where it is 15 percent ABV. Campari, on the other hand, ranges from 20.5 percent to 28.5 percent ABV, depending on which country it’s sold in.

They have different uses.

Due to Aperol’s lower ABV and less agressive flavor, it’s more commonly used as a complementary component in lighter cocktails, like the classic Aperol Spritz, which is three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol and one part soda. Campari, however, has a more prominent flavor and, as such, acts as the dominant component in cocktails like the Negroni and Americano, both of which include equal parts Campari.