Campari: a drink for grown ups ….

Duty Free CampariCampari is definitely a drink for grown-up tastes. When we’re too young to know any better, Mother Nature hardwires us to avoid anything that tastes bitter. Instead it’s the sight of anything sweet that makes our infant eyes light up. Whoever really enjoys the first time they taste coffee or other bitter-tasting foods and drinks such as dark chocolate, beer or chicory?Father time intervenes, of course. Tastes mature (for some of us at least). What once prompted a wince of displeasure often becomes eagerly sought after. Culture also plays an important role in developing our palates too. If you are reading this in Italy, for instance, you will likely have grown up seeing adults enjoying ‘amari’: pre-dinner drinks (‘aperitivi’) flavoured with all manner of herbs, roots, peels and spices, but united in having a bittersweet taste profile.

Southern Europe’s passion for bitter-tasting drinks is now catching on in other parts of the world. After years of mixing up sugary mojitos and cosmopolitans top bartenders in the US and Europe are rediscovering sophisticated grown-up bitter-tasting cocktails such as the Negroni and the Old Fashioned so beloved by Don Draper in the hit US TV series Mad Men.

If you are looking to experiment with the ‘bitter’ side, you could do a lot worse than buy yourself a bottle of Campari. It’s one of Italy’s most famous alcoholic drinks and available in over 190 countries worldwide. Gloriously red and boasting one of the world’s most instantly recognizable bottle labels, Campari has been around since 1860 when a Milanese bartender called Gaspare Campari invented the drink in his cellar.Gaspare’s secret mix of nearly 70 herbs, roots, barks, peel and spices has hardly changed since (although we’re happy to point out to vegetarian drinkers that crushed cochineal insects are no longer used to give Campari its wonderfully scarlet colour!) Just a handful of employees know that recipe today, but the key question posed by Campari novices, however, is often how to drink it. Resist the temptation to try it neat and follow one of our suggestions:

Campari & Soda

The classic and refreshing way of drinking Campari (and so popular Campari even produces its own pre-mixed version) is to add soda water. How much you add is down to your own personal taste, but remember the more soda water you use, the more bitter your drink will taste. It may seem counterintuitive, but the water dilutes the sugar in the drink and actually enhances its inherent bitterness so go easy if you are easing into an appreciation of all things bitter. A 50:50 split between Campari and soda water is a good rule of thumb and don’t be shy with the ice.

The Negroni

The all-time classic Italian cocktail is easy to make, but made well will still impress friends and family with your bartending prowess. There are a myriad variations but the basic recipe is a simple one: one part gin, one part sweet vermouth and one part Campari. Garnish with orange peel and serve in your most fancy glassware.

Campari and Orange

An even simpler idea and a great drink to order in a pub or bar where the barman’s cocktail repertoire starts and finishes with a flat gin and tonic. The recipe couldn’t be easier to follow. Put ice and a measure of Campari in a highball glass and fill with fresh orange juice. Garnish with a slice of orange and enjoy. If you feel like a change, swap the orange juice for grapefruit juice.

Campari Spritz

This one is a refreshing summer drink for a garden party or wedding celebration. It’s also a great way of disguising a less than top-notch sparkling wine. Pour two parts of Campari, one part of soda water and four parts sparkling wine into a chilled wine glass and garnish with a slice of orange.

So to sum up Campari may be cool – this is a brand after all endorsed by the likes of Jessica Alba and Benicio del Toro – but like many of the good things in life, it is an acquired taste and not for everyone. But for cocktail lovers and anyone into the Mediterranean way of life, it’s definitely a drink to persevere with in our opinion. Just don’t add condensed milk like they do in the Caribbean. Not cool!