© Carey Jones
Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated August 29, 2014

Simply put, Campari is an acquired taste. But once you've acquired it, you'll seek it out whenever possible. Ruby-red and distinctly bitter, the amaro is a staple of Italian late-afternoon aperitivo hour, and a key component in numerous cocktails, most famously the Negroni. (Learn more about Negronis here.) 

But with its moderate alcohol levels and dual bitter-sweet personality, it's one of the most versatile cocktail ingredients out there. And given its deep red hue, one of the prettiest, too. Unitl a few years ago, its brilliant color, was actually the result of carmine dye, derived from the shells of insects. Only in 2006 did they switch to a synthetic substitute. Here are three simple cocktails to make with Campari–all slightly bitter and totally refreshing. 

Easy: Campari Soda

Some folks who love Campari in a cocktail–a Negroni, say–don't know how tasty it is on its own. With a big splash of soda and an orange slice, it's an ideal pre-dinner sipper, and pretty much impossible to mess up. Bring a bottle of Campari and a two-liter of club soda to a party and see how many friends you make. 

Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Campari to a tall glass with ice. Top with 5 ounces of club soda. Garnish with an orange slice. 

Intermediate: Pilsner Negroni

Campari and pilsner? Believe it. Beers have sweet and bitter qualities of their own, and Campari heightens both, blending in seamlessly. Perfect for summer afternoons; it drinks like a beer with a little something mysterious in the background. 

Instructions: Pour 1/2 an ounce of Campari and 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth into a beer glass. Add 8 ounces of chilled pilsner. Garnish with a lemon peel, squeezing over the top to spritz its citrus oils everywhere. 

Advanced: Italian Gentleman 

Most drinks use only a moderate amount of Campari, but bourbon is robust enough to stand up to a healthy pour of the amaro, and they mesh beautifully in this whiskey sour rendition. 

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Campari, 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, and 1/4 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and hot water). Dash in some orange bitters, if you have them. Shake that all up and strain into a coupe class. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 

Related: This is Not Your Grandmother's Aperitif: 3 Fino Sherry Cocktails
 3 Fantastic Maraschino Cocktails, No Jarred Cherries Required
3 Sparkling Cocktails to Sip this Summer

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