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Campari: Gateway Drug To The Good Life

Monday, 27 July 2009

I had my first Campari on a date at a racetrack in Florence, Italy. We stood along the rails watching the races with a group of distinguished (i.e. drunk) older gentlemen. We bonded tutti insieme over drinks and screamed at our dollar bets to cross the finish line. It was a very romantic first date for a young woman in a new country and my love of Campari is certainly cemented in part, by that nostalgia.

Campari's definitely an acquired taste. On its own it can be a little rough around the edges; at once bitter, viscous and medicinal. But mixed with fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice over ice, it transforms into a perfectly civilized and refreshing summer cocktail.

I made these for a recent summer dinner party and they were an instant hit. My friends who'd never had them before, loved them. Campari's also very high in alcohol; it's strength might sneak up on you. Depending on where it's sold it can be as high as 28%! I believe it's 18% here in the States. If you're looking for a new summer tipple, Campari might be just the thing.

Here's a few quick and easy recipes for Campari:

Campari & OJ: Place ice cubes in a highball or old-fashioned glass. Add 1/3 Campari to 2/3 fresh squeezed OJ.

Campari & Grapefruit: Same as above but with 1/4 Campari to 3/4 freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice.

Campari & Soda: Place ice cubes in a highball glass. Add 2/3 Campari and 1/3 club soda.

Negroni: pour equal parts gin, sweet red vermouth and Campari into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange peel.

Reverse Negroni: Another great summer cocktail, this obscure drink was introduced to me at one of my all time favorite, (now defunct) Chicago restaurants, Sole Mio. RIP.

Pour equal parts vodka, dry vermouth and Campari in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon rind.

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