Okay, so it may not be as essential to your liquor cabinet as gin or whiskey. You can, of course, make plenty of drinks without Campari. But of all the liqueurs in our collection, this bitter, herbal, and fruity aperitif is one of the bottles we reach for most often. Deep-red Campari, equal parts sweetness and bitter punch, adds bold flavor wherever you pour it, whether you're sticking with a tried-and-true Negroni or attempting something a bit more unusual. Start with one of these 21 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 (or read the New York Times' unpopular take on the subject), 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. Here, the Campari is cut with both club soda and Prosecco; 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 delicious in its own right. We begin by whipping up a homemade grapefruit cordial, burying grapefruit peels in sugar and letting them macerate, before adding fresh lime and grapefruit juices, 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 representing the recipe—III, for one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari. They sample every possible sweet vermouth available. 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 Negroni variations, a few of which you'll find as you keep reading here.
What happens if you're making a Negroni, but you swap out the gin for whiskey? You get the cold-weather cocktail you didn't even realize you were craving. Rye or bourbon makes the bittersweet drink more robust, for a warming and rich winter sipper.
This powerful drink, usually made with spicy rye whiskey, is 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 the 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 sweet vermouth. Be sure to open up a new bottle of vermouth 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. Chilling the mixture of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in the freezer ahead of time limits dilution, for a less watery slushy once you add the ice and blend.
The Negroni doesn't need any extra ingredients to be great, but the addition of a little absinthe makes for an intriguing concoction. The absinthe makes the Quill a little more herbal than the Negroni, while 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, Fernet Branca, and 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 drink is easy to love, and it's also one of the best uses of Campari we know. The bittersweet stuff is brightened with lime and fresh, tangy pineapple juice, while the base of the cocktail is rich blackstrap rum. Canned pineapple juice won't measure up to the flavor you'll get from fresh—if you don't have a juicer, you'll have to get to work muddling.
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 the same kinds of citrus, but swaps out the sweet maraschino for bittersweet Campari. It's a compelling combination.
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, plus a hint of vanilla flavor from barrel-aging.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a summer cocktail more refreshing or simpler to make than this one, designed expressly with fans of LaCroix in mind. We pair Campari with the tangerine version of the ubiquitous sparkling water, plus fresh orange juice to bolster the drink's citrus flavor and lime juice to cut through the bittersweet aperitif.
This cocktail gives the classic fall-weather-friendly Boulevardier a run for its money. Instead of sweet vermouth, this recipe calls for a mix of liqueurs—orange-flavored Ferrand's Dry Curaçao and warmly spiced Amaro Ramazzotti—in addition to a generous pour of whiskey, a dash of bitters, and, of course, Campari.
If you like lightly bitter drinks, but find a classic Negroni a bit too much for your taste, try this twist on a sour, invented by Douglas Derrick of Ava Gene's in Portland, Oregon. It subs in a pre-batched Negroni (gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth) for the whiskey or Pisco typically found in a sour. We've found that this cocktail gets the best flavor—bright, tart, and herbal—from Plymouth navy-strength (high-proof) gin.
Created by Pete Stanton of New York's Ai Fiori, this summery drink is no lightweight, thanks to the combination of smoky mezcal and bittersweet Campari and Punt e Mes. A little fresh grapefruit juice and club soda help to brighten it up. Don't let its pretty, rosy appearance fool you.
This autumnal Negroni variation deviates from the standard equal-parts Negroni formula, combining two parts apple brandy—definitely use the high-proof, bonded stuff here, such as Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy—with one part each Campari and sweet vermouth. If you've got a fall cocktail party coming up, this one can easily be scaled up for a crowd. (Read more on prepping drinks for a crowd in our guide to batched cocktails.)
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