Campari is a popular red Italian liqueur with a bitter herbal flavor! Use it to mix up a classic Negroni cocktail, and so much more.
Looking at grabbing a bottle of Campari? The bright red color of this popular liqueur might make you think it tastes sweet. But its flavor is herbal and ultra bitter! It’s got a long history and features in several famous classic cocktails. Is it worth buying a bottle? Absolutely. Even if you’re not a fan of bitter flavors, mixing it into sweet or sour drinks adds nuance and complexity. In fact, it’s one of our liquors to keep stocked. Here’s more about it, what it tastes like, and how to use this popular Italian liqueur.
What is Campari?
Campari is a bitter Italian liqueur that’s an aperitif: a drink designed for sipping before a meal. It’s part of the family of Italian amaros (amaro means “little bitter”). It was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Novare, Italy. Today it remains the most popular of all Italian liqueurs. It’s most famous for classic cocktails like the Negroni and Americano.
Campari is bright red in color. In fact, its red color originally came from a dye made of crushed insects! The modern recipe now uses artificial red coloring. This liquor is sold by the company Gruppo Campari, which also bought Aperol in the 1990s. But these Italian liqueurs are more different than they are alike: read more at Campari vs Aperol.
What does Campari taste like?
Campari has a strong bittersweet flavor, with notes of orange peel, cherry, clove, and cinnamon. It’s one of the most bitter liqueurs used in modern drinks.
Are there any Campari substitutes? This liqueur is so unique, it’s hard to replace. It’s readily available at your local liquor store. In a pinch, you can substitute any red amaro or Aperol, but Aperol is much sweeter.
Why we like it
Campari features in many classic cocktails and some great modern classics. While it’s ultra bitter, you mix it into sweet or sour drinks to add complexity. It’s a great second tier liqueur to keep on hand outside of the big five (gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, and tequila).
How much does it cost?
Compared to other liquors, Campari is mid-priced. A 375 ml bottle costs about $20, and a 750 ml bottle costs $25 to $30.
Most popular Campari cocktails
While you can drink Campari straight as a shot or an aperitif, it’s most commonly included in cocktails. Here are the most popular Campari cocktails using this bitter liqueur. While the Negroni is most popular worldwide, we prefer the more intriguing Boulevardier or the fusion tropical cocktail, the Jungle Bird.
This Italian liqueur is also included in the following drinks:
- Garibaldi: Mix it with orange juice
- Campari Spritz: Mix it with Prosecco and soda water
- Old Pal: Mix it with dry vermouth and whiskey
Refreshingly bitter and just sweet enough, the Negroni is a classic cocktail that’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari. Cheers!
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) gin*
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet or semi-sweet red vermouth
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Campari
- Ice, for serving (try clear ice!)
- For the garnish: Orange peel
- Combine the gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
- Add ice to a lowball glass, and strain the drink into the glass (or you can use a cocktail glass without ice).
- Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of the orange peel. Squeeze the orange peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass and serve.
*We like the Boulevardier even better, a classic cocktail that’s a spin on the Negroni. Substitute 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey for the gin. It has a rounder flavor that’s more balanced by the bourbon.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Cocktails
More liquor guides
Wondering what Aperol is? Or St Germain or Chartreuse? Want the best brand of bourbon or how to make a whiskey sour? We’ve got you! Here are a few more guides to liquor:
- Quick Guide to Chartreuse This pale green liqueur is worth adding to your collection…here’s why.
- Quick Guide to Absinthe This formerly banned liquor is now in good graces.
- Guide to Grenadine It’s mistaken as cherry, but this bright syrup has a secret.
- Quick Guide to Cointreau This popular orange liqueur is the best out there.
- Quick Guide to Orange Liqueur All you need to know about this somewhat confusing style of liquor.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.