Campari & Me

Ah, Campari…the king of bitter-sweet amaros.  Who could deny that beautiful, red hue and the lingering bitterness with notes of pepper, quinine, and citrus?  Too bad no one really knows what goes in that beautiful bottle, though some believe Chinatto is a component (a bitter and citric fruit). This secrecy could be said for any liqueur but especially Italian amaros (they love their secrecy), so we merely have to guess and let our nose and taste buds do the sleuthing.  Here in the states, while Campari is pretty well known, and just about every well stocked bar has it, it’s not as popular as it should be.  Of course, this stems from the fact that it has a long, lingering bitterness to it, but honestly as far as bitter liqueurs go Campari is actually quite sweet.  Thanks to the growing come back of the classic cocktail movement, Campari is finally becoming more and more mainstream in modern cocktails.  It’s a acquired taste so don’t expect too many young cocktailians to be popping bottles and mixing up a Negroni or an Americano anytime soon.

Speaking of the Negroni, this is a wonderful cocktail to know once you’re tastes have matured and your ready to take off your cocktail training wheels.  Believed to be created around 1919 in Florence, Italy at the Caffè Casoni by Count Camillo Negroni.  He supposedly asked the bartender to make his favorite drink, the Americano, a bit stronger.  The bartender switched out the soda water and added gin instead, paving the way for future mixologists to create their own versions and masterpieces based on the original.

1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
Orange Peel for Garnish

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass.  Garnish and enjoy.
This idea with Campari being unapproachable to most Americans tastes is what prompted me to think about creating a cocktail that allows the wonderful flavors and nuances to shine, but also be palatable for a wider range of consumers.  This can be an obvious conundrum for many old world style spirits and liqueurs.  Well, vodka is probably a good place to start.  Cocktail revolution aside, vodka is still the most consumed spirit on the planet, especially here in the states.  Since summer is slowly creeping upon us, I felt utilizing a citrus vodka and developing a cocktail with some crisp carbonated water would be a refreshing summer sipper.  And so I give you, the Paisan!  It’s Italian slang for “brother” / “homie” and used in just about every mobster movie created.  Sounded cool.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Charbay Meyer Lemon Vodka
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Pineapple Juice
2 Strawberries
1 tsp Sugar
Lemon Peel for Garnish.

Slice and muddle strawberries with sugar.  Add remaining ingredients, shake and double strain into a double Old Fashioned glass.  Top with soda water, express lemon peel and add to cocktail.  Enjoy.

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