Spring is upon us, which means it’s time to crawl out from the comfort of our toasty beds and bask in the warm weather we’ve missed so dearly. As the seasons change, and the sun sets later, aperitivo hour makes its extravagant return to the mainstream; which means it’s time to restock your home bar with every bartender’s favorite red-hued, bittersweet aperitivo: Campari.
Even though the Aperol Spritz gets most of the love in the aperitivo cocktail department, Campari is more instrumental in making classic cocktails such as the Negroni, Sbagliato, Americano, Bicicleta, and so on. It’s an essential component for any home bar, or actual bar, and is bound to come in handy as you look to spritz your way through the spring and summer. For those in need of some “drinkspiration,” we tapped a few talented bartenders from around the world to share their recipes for mixing at home.
Asian Glow 2.0 by Fanny Chu, New York City bartender and drink stylist
For this creative serve, ex-head bartender Fanny Chu of the now-shuttered Donna in Brooklyn marries Japanese and Italian flavors to create a uniquely refreshing bitter cocktail that falls somewhere between a Negroni and Americano. “Japan has been on my mind, especially with this new Fever-Tree [Lime & Yuzu] expression which served as an inspiration to create this cocktail,” Chu says. “The flavor profile is like a lighter version of a Negroni because the lemongrass shochu is lower in ABV than gin and goes harmoniously with Campari, ambrato vermouth, and Fever-Tree Lime and Yuzu.”
1 1/2 ounces Mizu Lemongrass Shochu
3/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato Vermouth
Top with Fever-Tree Lime & Yuzu
Garnish with orange or grapefruit wedge
Directions: Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice, build ingredients over ice and briefly stir to chill. Add more ice, then top with Fever-Tree and lightly agitate with a bar spoon to integrate the mixer. Garnish with a citrus wedge of choice.
Bitter & Bubbly by Matt Reysen, bartender at Dante NYC
If you love Campari then you must try it when paired with strawberries. It’s a match made in aperitivo heaven, and dampens the abrasive bitterness that Campari’s known for. In his cocktail dubbed Bitter & Bubbly, bartender Matt Reysen of 2019’s best bar in the world, Dante NYC, builds a flavor profile that fits exceptionally well in the style of the classic Sbagliato.
“Most cocktails that fall into the category of ‘bitter and bubbly’ usually contain some form of Italian bitters or amari—in this case Campari—and bubbles (i.e. Champagne or prosecco),” Reysen says. “I wanted to bring out all of the fruit notes in Campari by infusing it with fresh strawberries. I paired that with the honey, floral and tropical fruit flavors you find in ambrato vermouth, while adding a touch of rhubarb amari to add a little extra backbone to the cocktail.” The spritz-style cocktail is finished with bubbles, making for the perfect low-ABV sipper. “With the warmer weather ahead we want easy, delicious, fresh and of course bubbly cocktails that allow us to day drink in the afternoons al fresco style.”
1 ounce of Strawberry-infused Campari*
1 ounce of ambrato vermouth (Martini & Rossi or Mancino are brands to consider)
1/4 ounce of zucca rabarbaro
Top with sparkling wine (Champagne or prosecco)
(optional) Dash of 2% citric acid solution (100g water to 2g citric acid powder)
Directions: Add ice to a wine glass or goblet, then pour the non-carbonated ingredients. Gently stir to chill, then top with sparkling wine and lightly mix with a bar spoon. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and other season fruits.
*Strawberry infused Campari - one bottle of Campari (750 or 1 L will do) with a case of fresh strawberries cut in quarters with the tops cut off. Let infuse for 24 hours and strain with a coffee filter, cheesecloth or fine strainer (chinois).
Essenza Negroni at The Champagne Bar at The Surf Club by Valentino Longo, head bartender
At the Four Seasons at The Surf Club in Surfside, FL, the best-selling cocktail on The Champagne Bar’s menu, the Essenza Negroni, draws inspiration from Longo’s days bartending in his home country, Italy. “Back in the day when I started working behind the bar in Rome, many places would have their style of or take on “vermouth,” Longo says. “It would typically be a blend of two or three different brands to achieve a more consistent and unique flavor. These experiences and memories inspired our Essenza Negroni at The Champagne Bar.”
This rendition on the beloved bitter aperitivo cocktail blends three Negroni variations to create one, seamless elixir that makes all the preparation worthwhile. “The beauty here is, there is never a right or wrong when creating a cocktail; there are only points of view,” says Longo.
3 ounces Essenza Negroni Batch*
Directions: add to a mixing glass with ice, stir until chilled and slightly diluted, then strain over a large cube in a double rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist to serve.
Step 1: Infused Negroni
1 liter Bombay sapphire
1 liter bitter
750 ml bottle Cocchi Torino
250 ml Martini Rubino
4 blood oranges
10 thyme sprigs
5 cucumber slices
Directions: combine all in a neutral container and let infuse for 5 hours before straining ingredients back into bottles.
Step 2: Solera-aged Negroni
1 liter Fords Gin
1 liter Martini & Rossi bitter liqueur
600 ml Tio Pepe Gonzalez Byass sherry
400 ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
Directions: add all ingredients to a 5 lt. oak barrel, and age for up to 2 weeks max. Then, take out 1 lt. from the barrel and replace with a freshly made 1 lt. batch. Continue this process for as long as you’d like, but only one round is necessary for the cocktail.
Step 3: Essenza Negroni Batch
1 liter solera-aged Negroni
3 liters infused Negroni
1500 ml tanqueray
1500 ml Campari
1500 ml Cocchi di Torino
Directions: vat all ingredients to blend and then bottle. (This blend will be used as the Negroni batch.)
Pepper Love by Andrea Paci, head barkeeper at Kulm Country Club at Kulm Hotel St. Moritz
Campari and grapefruit are two ingredients that pair exceptionally well together, and the Pepper Love makes that duo the focus of this complex, fruity Campari sour. That base is complemented with flavors of ginger, pink pepper, and passionfruit for a fresh serve that’s as visually appealing as it is delectable on the palate.
Note: ounces have been translated to the nearest standard measurements from milliliters and aren’t exact translations.
¾ ounce (20ml) ginger-infused Tequila Calle 23*
1 ounce (30 ml) Campari
½ ounce (17.5 ml) pink pepper and passionfruit syrup**
3 ounces (90 ml) fresh pink grapefruit juice
¼ ounce (10 ml) egg white
Garnish with pink peppercorns
Directions: First dry shake (without ice) the ingredients to emulsify, then add ice cubes and wet shake again. Once chilled, strain into a coupe glass and garnish with some pink peppercorns.
*Ginger-infused Tequila Calle 23
Directions: Cut 25 gram of peeled ginger into small pieces and put it together with 500 ml of Tequila in a vacuum bag. Cook with a roner (vacuum cooking tool) for 90 minutes at 60 degrees.
**Pink pepper and passion fruit syrup
200 g sugar
200 ml water
30 g pink peppercorns
Pulp and juice of 6 passion fruits
1 g salt
5 g pink grapefruit zest
Directions: Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then filter and bottle.
Side Piece at The Standard, East Village
In New York’s East Village, lead bartender Pape Konte of The Standard mixes a cocktail that’s both uplifting and hearty with the use of fresh herbs and fruits in addition to its bourbon backbone. “This cocktail is refreshing and spirit-forward with the Campari cutting through the sweetness of the bourbon and amaro,” Konte says. “The lemon, pineapple, and fresh basil add a light flair to the cocktail, perfect for the start of warmer weather.”
1 ½ ounces Wild Turkey bourbon
½ ounce Amaro Montenegro
¼ ounce Campari
¾ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce honey-pineapple syrup*
Torn basil leaf
Garnish with a basil leaf
Directions: add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a double rocks glass and serve on the rocks. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf.
*Honey Pineapple Syrup: start by making a simple syrup. Boil 2 cups of water, then add 2 cups of sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and let cool. Then add 2 cups pineapple juice to the simple syrup and stir to integrate. After making the pineapple syrup, make a honey syrup which will then be blended with the former. Boil 1 ½ cups of honey and ½ cup of water; let it cool, then blend with the pineapple syrup.
Sotol Los Magos Negroni at Zapote Bar at Rosewood Mayakoba
Featured on the menu of the newly opened Zapote Bar in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the Sotol Los Magos puts Sotol, a distant cousin of the earthy mezcal made from the desert spoon plant, at the forefront of this Mexican-inspired Negroni. “I love the flavor of the sotol distillate because it's distinctive enough to be noticeable, but it plays well with Campari as its earthy notes balance out a Negroni's sweetness,” Juan Pablo Loza, director of culinary operations at the Rosewood Mayakoba says. “Sotol Los Magos is triple distilled and has this unctuous trait that gives the drink a velvety texture and a unique Mexican Flavor.”
1 ounce Sotol Los Magos
1 ounce Mancino Rosso vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Garnish with an orange twist
Directions: combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a double rocks glass over ice and garnish with an orange twist.
Bolivian Bird by Tatjana Sendzimir, bar manager at FAM Bar London
The classic tropical Jungle Bird gets a simple makeover with a base of the floral, delicate Singani 63 — a Bolivian grape brandy akin to a pisco. Fresh ingredients are key to making this cocktail truly shine, so freshly juice your pineapple and lime for a vibrant, bitter tiki cocktail.
1 ½ ounces Singani 63
½ ounce Campari
1 ½ ounces pineapple juice (preferably fresh)
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup (1:1)
Garnish with lime wheel
Directions: Combine all ingredients, shake hard with ice, and serve over ice in a frozen old fashioned glass. Finish by garnishing with a lime wheel.