Okay, it's not gin or whiskey. You can, of course, make plenty of drinks without Campari. But when it comes to liqueurs, this bitter, herbal, and fruity aperitif is one of our go-tos. Dark red Campari adds bold flavor wherever you pour it, equal parts sweetness and bitter punch. Start with one of these 16 cocktails, and then work your way down the list, one happy hour at a time.
We've made a habit of going into bars and just asking for "something bitter and sour." More than once, the bartender's answer has been this rosy cocktail, made with gin, fresh lemon, Campari, and a little Cointreau to sweeten. It's a crowd-pleaser: bright and juicy, fresh but not sugary.
If you've spent time in Italy, you're probably plenty familiar with the orangey Aperol Spritz, often enjoyed as part of an aperitivo hour that includes an array of snacks. This Campari version is a little bolder, but still plenty refreshing. The Campari's cut with both club soda and Prosecco, and it's great with a salty olive garnish and fried snacks on the side.
A simple Paloma is a beautifully easy thing. But this is not that drink; it's something else altogether. We begin by whipping up a homemade grapefruit cordial by burying grapefruit peels in sugar and letting them macerate before adding fresh lime and grapefruit juice, salt, sugar, and a little water. Once your cordial's ready—and it'll last several weeks, so it's fine to do your prep work in advance—you'll mix it with tequila, lime, and seltzer, plus Campari, which is really grapefruit's best friend.
Negroni devotees are an intense lot. They get tattoos of the recipe—III, for one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari. They sample every possible sweet vermouth in the mix. They debate adding a touch more gin to dry out the drink a bit. They set their garnishes on fire. And the Negroni's a cocktail that rewards this customizing; start with the basic equal-parts version, and tailor it to your taste. Then get going on the countless variations, a few of which we've listed for you below.
What happens if you're making a Negroni, but you swap out the gin for whiskey? The cold-weather cocktail you'll find yourself craving. Rye or bourbon makes the bittersweet drink more robust, for a warming and rich wintry sipper.
This powerful drink, usually made with spicy rye whiskey, is a bit drier than the Boulevardier, since it calls on dry vermouth instead of sweet. It's aggressively flavored and a touch boozy, so Campari newcomers may want to take it slow. But if you're already enamored with the bitter liqueur, you should definitely add this to your list.
If you're looking for a pre-dinner drink that's not too strong, say hello to this concoction—essentially a Negroni without gin. That is, Campari and sweet vermouth, up or on the rocks, plus an important touch: bubbles. Prosecco or Cava will work just fine.
The Americano is even lighter than the Sbagliato; it's made with club soda instead of sparkling wine. The flavor comes from bittersweet Campari and juicy, sweet vermouth. Be sure to open up a new bottle if yours is starting to smell oxidized—and, once you've cracked the seal, keep that vermouth in the fridge for best results.
Ask a bartender what's going on in cocktails right now, and you'll likely hear that everyone just wants to have fun again. Throw out your vest and suspenders, get rid of that silly mustache, and pull out the blender, because frozen cocktails are back...and this time, they're really tasty. We like to chill the mixture in the freezer ahead of time, for a less watery slushy and less last-minute fuss.
The Negroni doesn't need anything, but the addition of a little absinthe makes for an intriguing concoction. The drink becomes a little more herbal, and the anise flavor teases extra interest out of the Campari, gin, and vermouth, without overtaking the drink.
The magic of the Quill, but lighter, thanks to a little fizzy club soda and Prosecco. Instead of sweet vermouth, this drink boosts the bitterness of Campari a bit with Cocchi Rosa, a quinine-laced aperitif.
Invented by Toby Maloney of Chicago's Violet Hour, this wild ride of a drink brings together three bitter bottles: Campari plus Fernet Branca, as well as bittersweet, vegetal Cynar. Don't knock it till you've tried it.
We've just started to see this cocktail on more drink menus, and we couldn't be happier about it. This is a drink that's easy to love, and it's one of the best uses of Campari we know. The bittersweet stuff is brightened with lime and fresh, tangy pineapple juice, and the base of the cocktail is rich blackstrap rum. Don't use canned pineapple juice: If you don't have a juicer, you'll have to get to work muddling.
Sparkling Jungle Bird
This fancy and festive spin on the Jungle Bird starts with rum that's been infused with lime zest and roasted pineapple. The infused aged rum pairs beautifully with a little dark rum, Campari, and sparkling wine; it might be the most elegant tiki drink you've ever tried.
The Hemingway Daiquiri is made with lime and grapefruit, rum, and a touch of maraschino liqueur. This tequila variation calls on that same citrus, but swaps out the maraschino for bittersweet Campari. It's a compelling combination.
Bitter and Bold Sangria
Sangria can be a little same old, same old, but this one's something special. Campari boosts the citrusy flavors of the fruit and wine and cuts the drink's sweetness nicely. A little bourbon adds a kick and a hint of vanilla flavor from barrel-aging.