What to do with Campari? Every summer I pick up a bottle at my local ABC store. Amateur Cocktail Gal likes Campari and soda during the hot summer months. She picked up the habit during several summers working in Italy. I’ve tried to be a good spouse and share her enthusiasm, but the stuff is just so darn bitter, even diluted with some soda. When I asked her how you get to like it, she said “You just sit down with a bottle and by the time your through, you like it.” Hard core. This year I decided to figure out how I could make it palatable for me without the pain of draining a bottle.

If you ‘ve read through some older posting, you know I like a Negroni (1/3 each gin, sweet vermouth & Campari). That’s not a drink to have by the pool, too alcoholic. Great in a bar with real clothes on. Not great when a misstep could send you falling against concrete or into a pool.

Camapari and orange juice (1 part Campari, three parts OJ) is another option, but some Campari marketing I saw suggested that this one is “For the Ladies.” Not that I would dismiss it outright for that association, but it does make it something I’d be a little self concoius about if I ordered one in a bar (especially if the barternder was a woman). I’ll try it, but I’m waiting for blood oranges or tangerines to show up in our local markets. Using those instead of orange juice will let me put my own twist on it. That should distance me from the ladies drink association.

The Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda) was another possibility. This is supposedly the basis for the Negroni. Someone named Negroni simply substituted gin for the soda. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the Americano I made as a test, the Campari flavor shown too brightly.

There are several other possibilities out there. Tonight I’m trying a modification of the OJ+Campari, the South Beach. This comes from Dale DeGroff and is recorded in his Craft of the Cocktail. I’m not sure adding Amaretto makes a Campari and OJ a man’s drink, probably not. It does diguise the Campari and OJ association under a more obscure drink name that most people won’t recognize. If you order one, no one else at the bar will be the wiser.

¾ oz Campari

¾ oz Amaretto

2 oz fresh orange juice

½ oz Simple Syrup (1:1), optional

Flamed orange peel for garnish


Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a Martini glass. Ganish with the flamed orange peel.

The resulting cocktail is pretty. The orange and red give a nice color. There is also a wonderful aroma from the Amaretto. Unfortunately, I added just bit of the optional sugar syrup and it tuned out too sweet. Amateur Cocktail Gal loved hers, but agreed on the sweetness problem. If you try it, skip the sugar. This might also be one to do with fresh squeezed blood orange or tangerine juice.

Next attempt to get the Campari down is a recipe from an old William Hamilton NY Times – Shaken & Stirred column: Campari d’Asti.