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.