Saturday, July 4, 2009


Campari is a bitter, bright red aperitif that was created in the 1860's by Gaspare Campari, an Italian bartender. James Bond has been known to drink Campari, and it shows up in Fellini films, Duras novels, and Primus songs. It is Steve Zissou's favorite drink and one of the only English words that Bang Bang speaks in The Brothers Bloom; this seems to suggest that Wes Anderson is a big fan of the stuff, although I'd prefer to believe that he just makes use of it for its pop culture flair.

There is no doubt that Campari is pretty cool right now. Lady Gaga featured it in one of her videos, as did Christina Aguilera. The Pogues namechecked it, Rihanna's backup singers drink it, and Jessica Biel is the company's 2009 Calendar girl. It also has a supremely cool website.

Pedigree, bright color, reasonable price, and cool literary currency: in many ways, Campari seems to have it all. Given that, I tried to like the stuff. Unfortunately, for all my efforts, I kept bumping my head against two basic truths:

1. Campari tastes like a smoker's mouth the morning after a major bender, with a slight hint of novocaine.

2. It is truly one of the foulest flavors imaginable. I totally hate it.

Even so, I drank all of my Americano, and will undoubtedly work my way through the rest of the Campari recipes in my various bartenders guides. I will try very, very hard to like the stuff.

The Americano was first made in Gaspare Campari's bar, not long after the aperitif was developed. Its original name, the Milano-Torino, celebrated the fact that the two main ingredients came from Italian towns. Milano supplied the Campari and Torino supplied the sweet vermouth. Later, when it became clear that American tourists were drawn to the drink, the cafe renamed it in honor of its new benefactors.

It is a decent drink as far as Campari drinks go, which means that it is absolutely beautiful to look at. It tastes better than a tequila ghost, but not quite as good as the sweaty asscrack of a Russian cab driver.

(from The Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide)

1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounces Campari
Cold club soda
lemon or orange slice

Pour vermouth and Campari into chilled highball glass filled with ice cubes; add club soda, stirring gently. Garnish with lemon or orange slice.


Dan said...

Try a "Campari Sky": One shot Campari, one shot sweet red vermouth, one shot vodka into a highball glass over ice. Stir. It works. Nice color too.

Bruce said...


Thanks for the advice; I'll give it a shot. Still have a lot of Campari sitting around...