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Will I hate campari?

  • c

I mainly drink irish whiskey and IPA beers, but after reading posts here and seeing a lot of love for it, I'm particularly interested in Campari. As someone wih a fairly undeveloped palate, not being used to bitter liquors, am I likely to hate it upfront? The only size bottle I've seen at my local stores is the 750 ml and I don't want it to take me so long to learn to enjoy it that the bottle spoils. Any beginner friendly suggestions for mixed drinks?
Thanks,
Chris

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  1. How will you ever develop your palate if you don't introduce it to new things?

    I'd say the easiest approach to Campari is the classic Campari Orange—just a shot of Campari in orange juice and club soda or seltzer water. I started drinking it mixed with white grapefruit juice eons ago and loved it right out of the gate.

    15 Replies
    1. re: RelishPDX

      Me, too -- it was suggested by a waitress on a hot, sunny day in Germany (yes, those exist) -- didn't have soda, just oj and Campari, and I fell head over heels and drank it as a cocktail for the rest of that trip. (and have had a bottle of Campari in the cupboard ever since)

      I love the sweet-bitter-orangey-grapefruit flavor, and it's very refreshing on a warm day.

      1. re: sunshine842

        Sunshine, (or anyone else) -
        Have you ever tried the Italian soda - Chinotto?

        It's a soda that (to me) has the exact same taste as Campari!
        It is absolutely delicious.

        San Pellegrino makes it, and you can find it in most Italian delis - I highly recommend it!

        1. re: NellyNel

          Hmm - thanks for that -- an Italian deli just opened near me - I'll have to look for it.

          1. re: NellyNel

            I love the SP chinotto, which is a like a less sweet, more bitter version of the Brio that my family always got on pizza night growing up. But I've also from my local Italian grocer tried a pink soda actually called "sanbitter" that is even MORE like campari. Didn't like it :)
            Found this thread:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301743

            1. re: julesrules

              I love the tiny 3.4 oz bottles of Sanbitter. Great when you want to awaken your palate and perk up your appetite.

            2. re: NellyNel

              If you like chinotto, you owe it to yourself to try to find a bottle of Lurisia's Chinotto. It's a small producer that uses the real fruit to make the soda. The flavor is incredible.

              http://youmustlovefood.com/2011/10/02...

              1. re: Josh

                Thank you both!!

                I will have to try both, the sanbitter and the Lurisa's.

                Very interesting stuff!
                Thanks again!

              2. re: NellyNel

                Chinotto is moderately bitter, brown, and orange-flavored. Sanbitter is very bitter, bright red, Campari-flavored, and comes in a tiny bottle. The flavor is more floral than Campari.

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                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  Yes, Chinotto is bitter orange - but does it not taste like Campari?
                  Or maybe because I haven't had Campari straight - only with orange juice - it tastes like that to me?
                  So maybe Chinotto tastes like Campari and oj....not Campari itself...

                  1. re: NellyNel

                    Dunno. I don't drink Campari with orange juice, but I would not characterize Campari as having an orange flavor on its own, even though it is "thought to contain Chinotto, a bitter, citrus fruit brought to Italy from China".

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinotto...
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtle-l...

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                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                      Thanks for the reply, and links. Cool.

                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                        Campari is definitely known for its bitter orange qualities.

                      2. re: NellyNel

                        I don't personally think that chinotto sodas taste like campari (other than the obvious bittersweet profile) but I have different taste associations due to growing up drinking Brio on pizza night. I think if you do try sanbitter you will notice it REALLY tastes like campari.

                        1. re: julesrules

                          oh, ok...maybe..

                          I have always seen those cute little red bottles and have been curious, but for some odd reason, I never tried it..(very unlike me actually, as I must try EVERYTHING!) but I will make it a point to pick some up.

                          Thanks!!

              3. IPA beers are quite bitter. Do you like the bitterness of a gin-and-tonic with lime?

                I suggest you try a small amount of Campari and a large amount of soda water, with a lot of lime. The acid in the lime moderates the bitterness of the Campari. Add gin if you'd like.

                Relish's idea of white grapefruit juice is good too. The white variety is more sour than the pink/ruby varieties, generally.

                Campari doesn't really go bad -- you could have a bottle for many years. It took me a long time to like it, but now I use more Campari than any other single bottle in my bar. Alternatively, order it out at a restaurant or bar.

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                1 Reply
                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I can vouch for Campari not going bad. Last year I had drinks at a colleague's house, and poured from the bottle of Campari he'd put out. He said he was glad someone was finally drinking it, he'd bought it in a duty free shop at Amsterdam airport in 1992! It tasted just fine.

                2. I took the plunge several years ago, and bought a bottle. I hated it the first couple times I tried it, but was intrigued by the strong, complex flavors. The third time I tried it, I started to appreciate it. Over time, I began to appreciate it more and more, until now I enjoy it in a variety of drinks, including Negronis, Campari and Tonic, and the above-mentioned ones. Over time, I have begun to dislike overly sweet tastes and be more and more attracted to bitter, herbal flavors in food and drink. Campari may be partly responsible for that. If it's not a budget issue, I say take the plunge, buy a bottle, and live with it for at least 9 months before you dismiss Campari. It took me a year to be able to honestly say I love the stuff.

                  1. Try an Americano (Campari + sweet vermouth + soda) at a bar before you buy a full bottle. It's really refreshing, especially when it's warm outside, and the vermouth balances the bitterness of the liqueur. I loooove Campari, but it's very distinctive, so definitely try before you buy. If you like the Americano, go one step up and try a Negroni (Campari + sweet vermouth + gin). It is my favorite cocktail on earth, and IMO the best way to drink Campari.

                    Also, if you like the flavor but it seems just a bit too harsh, try Aperol - it's very similar but has a lower alcohol content and tastes a bit milder.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kathleen440

                      Aperol has a much more pronounced orange peel flavor.

                    2. Sorry to dredge up an old thread, but I wanted to report back- I just bought a bottle of Campari and it tastes like poison. It smells pretty nice, but one sip and the bitterness just sticks in my mouth- far more bitter than anything else I've ever tried. I haven't tried it mixed yet- far too early to mix up a full drink- I just took a tiny sip straight. I'll give it a try in juice and with soda/lime later on. I'm sure I'll learn to like it eventually, and I'm definitely not surprised it wasn't love at first taste, just wanted to give an update and thank everyone for their help!
                      Chris

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: CJB12

                        Yeah I have a bottle that I've had for about.... 10 years? Mostly untouched.
                        I bought it due to memories of a great grapefruit/campari sorbet I had on a trip to NYC in the 90s but then found it overwhelming. And I find grapefruit juice too acidic to drink much of.
                        Thanks to this thread, maybe I will some of these ideas a whirl, knowing it can actually keep that long. Maybe with grapefruit soda, the base for my favourite cocktail, the paloma (with tequila).

                        1. re: julesrules

                          If you live near a Trader Joes, they have some really nice Italian Sodas. They have a blood orange one that I like, but I believe they also have grapefruit. One of those might be worth a try, although I'm not sure how acidic they are.

                          1. re: CJB12

                            No Trader Joes here in Canada but I have a few options for grapefruit soda. There's Ting, and seasonally President's Choice (local store brand... some US distribution I think) makes a good one... or at least I am hoping it comes back this summer :) Oh and I notice that San Pelligrino is distributing grapefruit flavour here now. I love grapefruit soda.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              PC have a good blood orange pop as well that might work.

                            2. re: CJB12

                              I bought a bottle of Campari to try Negronis which were ok, Americanos not so much but I really like Boulevardiers. Blood Orange Italian soda with an orange wedge or twist is excellent with Campari. Add a shot of gin if you want to amp it up.

                              1. re: CJB12

                                +1, I am loving Campari mixed with Trader Joes grapefruit soda.

                            3. re: CJB12

                              I love Campari, but you need to make a drink with it.

                              In Venice we were introduced to a drink called a Campari spritz.

                              1.5 oz Campari
                              1.5 oz sparkling or white wine
                              1 oz orange juice

                              Mix all the above over ice and top off with soda water.

                              1. re: CJB12

                                eww -- no, I wouldn't drink it straight -- it really needs to be with something else.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Drinking it on the rocks may be the end point on the path of learning to love Campari, but it certainly isn't the starting point!

                                  I love it every way, including on the rocks (although it is pretty sweet without some lemon or lime).

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                              2. I second the suggestion that you try it in a bar first. I was struggling with the decision to buy a bottle of absinthe, but after tasting it, I knew for sure it was not something I need to own.

                                But don't give up after one kind of cocktail with Campari. Go to a bar where they pride themselves on making delicious cocktails, not your garden-variety sports bars. Sit at the bar and explain your interest to the bartender. And have fun.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Pipenta

                                  Well, I knew that I wanted to learn to like it, and I was sure that tasting it once in a bar wouldn't encourage me to try. So I just went ahead and bought a bottle- here it's only $17/ 750 ml. It'll save me a lot of money over trying drinks in a bar, in the long run.

                                  1. re: CJB12

                                    $17/750ml??? It's nearly twice that in Boston. I found it for $28/1L in NYS (so I bought 3). There is some odd distribution-induced pricing inequity with Campari.

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                                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                                      Hitime has it for $19, best price I have seen online by far. $28 for a liter is very nearly as good a deal. Almost every where else is $25-29.

                                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                                        Yes, here in Southern California a number of grocery stores offer 30% off if you buy six or more bottles of liquor. I think the normal price is around $22. Liquor is about the only thing that's inexpensive here though.

                                      2. re: CJB12

                                        CJB12 I paid a pretty penny for my first fifth of it last Fall here in Iowa. I started out trying to make a Negroni with it and had to scale back the Campari a bit [and work up] in order to enjoy the drink [and the Campari]. I plan on trying some of the Summertime suggestions on here for enjoying it as well. Good luck with it.

                                    2. We always mix it with Apple juice, add some ice and a twist of lemon. Very refreshing! And not bitter at all.

                                      1. Thanks again for all the tips! I tried a corpse reviver 3... And didn't like it. I'm going to give grapefruit soda and orange juice a try next (not together).

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: CJB12

                                          Have you tried Jasmine? Similar to Corpse Reviver #3, but I think that gin tends to be more of a natural fit with Campari. Here's the recipe:

                                          1 1/2 ounces gin
                                          1 ounce Cointreau
                                          3/4 ounce Campari
                                          1/2 ounce lemon juice
                                          Garnish: Lemon twist
                                          Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

                                          (Copied from: http://www.drinkboy.com/Cocktails/Rec...

                                          )

                                          ... this formula is fairly sweet (probably to offset the bitterness), so you could decrease the Campari quite a bit and still wind up with a balanced drink. Perhaps you could start with 1/3oz or something like that and work your way up from there?

                                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                            Good idea on the Jasmine, but here's what I believe is the original, better version, as reported by Paul Clarke. Bracingly tart, the acid helps offset the bitterness from the (small amount) of Campari. More in the Margarita style of a tart orange-tinged sour.

                                            Jasmine
                                            by Paul Harrington, Townhouse Bar & Grille, Emeryville, CA

                                            1 1/2 oz Gin
                                            3/4 oz Lemon juice
                                            1/4 oz Campari
                                            1/4 oz Triple sec, Cointreau
                                            1 twst Lemon peel (as garnish)

                                            Shake, strain, garnish with a lemon twist.

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                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                              Wow, Hess took serious liberties with that drink! The rations in the original almost look like something Embury would have suggested. Probably nice on a hot day, though. Will try it in mid July.

                                              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                Very interesting, I had just put a post-it on this recipe in Hess's book before logging on. I'm planning to try it after work today. Hess does mention that he's changed the recipe significantly.

                                                I gave Campari a try yesterday in some extremely bitter out of season fresh grapefruit juice, and thought that the tartness really did help moderate the bitterness, so I'll be interested to try the original Jasmine.

                                                1. re: CJB12

                                                  try adding some Combier Pamplemousse Rose (grapefruit liqueur) to it

                                                  1. re: barleywino

                                                    Grapefruit liqueur? Yes, please.

                                                    Have you seen this in the Boston area?

                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                      ordered it from Martignetti's...after reading about it on Yarm's blog
                                                      very sweet but very grapefruity

                                              2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                Could this drink work with lime instead of lemon? I'm all out of lemons!

                                                1. re: CJB12

                                                  Sure. It will of course be a little different. Lime is a bit more bitter, more acidic, and less sweet. I'd start with 1/2oz and taste.

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                                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                    I ended up finding a half lemon in the very back of the refrigerator. I tried the Paul Harrington version after reading a lot of comments on Hess's video for this drink saying that the Campari was very strong in his ratios. I quite liked it. Very tart, with a bit of a grapefruity flavor and only a hint of the Campari bitterness at the end.

                                          2. Well thanks to your thread CJB12 I delved into my 10-year-old bottle of Campari again. I combined it with San Pellegrino Blood Orange soda, on the rocks. This was too sweet for me (most soda is) so I added the juice of half a lime, and it probably could have used even more. It was a nice summer drink but still a little sweet for me. And frankly, not alcoholic enough :) I'll keep playing with it though, and won't be surprised if the campari actually gets used up this summer!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: julesrules

                                              A mention of rhubarb simple syrup in another thread got me thinking, because I am leaning towards sour in the campari combo spectrum. Of course google tells me I am not the first person to think of this:
                                              http://americandrink.net/post/6775810...

                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                Adding gin (or maybe tequila) could help give that balance you're looking for.

                                              2. I have an idea.....keep it simple. You like Irish whiskey right??? Do this: In a pint glass put a large slice of orange with a large scoop of sugar. Muddle, if you dont have a muddler use the handle of a spatula or other blunt object to smash the orange and sugar together. Add 1 & 1/2 oz Irish whiskey and 1 oz campari, add ice, stir or shake and top with soda water. Enjoy and crave Campari and whiskey drinks forever.

                                                1. Question:

                                                  Do you like Gin and Tonics.

                                                  Because that's the "bitterness" it's similar to... and a cheaper "experiment", especially if you do it during a happy hour with cheap well drinks. Just saying.

                                                  As for libations, I like a splash of campari with my orange juice for Sunday Brunch, drink it with club soda at any other time, and if you're looking to get rid of a bottle I highly recommend making sorbet or somesuch, like the one here:

                                                  http://www.alpha-cook.com/2011/12/cam...

                                                  1. I'm not a huge fan of Campari in general... but when I want something on the bitter side, I always reach for

                                                    LUXARDO BITTERS... tis' a great drink.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: McCleanman

                                                      That's interesting. I find the two extremely similar. What makes you like one and not the other?

                                                      I tried a bottle and decided that I slightly prefer Campari's flavor and I definitely prefer Luxardo Bitter's cost. I spring for Campari, but maybe I need to try Bitter again....

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                                                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                        I agree with you Dan, I tried them side by side and the Luxardo seemed a tiny bit sweeteer and the Campari slightly more intense orange, but really very similar.

                                                        I also agree about the cost when Campari is at it's normal price of $25+, but I got a bottle from Hitime for $19 at which it is very comparable to Luxardo's usual $16-17.

                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                          I love California's liquor prices. I don't know how you guys do it in the rest of the country. I would be totally broke.

                                                    2. I've experimented with drinking Campari on the rocks during or after particularly rich meals. Typically after eating a giant steak and/or various deep fried items, I wake up around three a.m. clutching my intestines in agony. The three times I have thought to drink Campari at some point after or during the meal, I have experienced absolutely no early morning intestinal ragnarok. I know Campari and amari in general are known for this quality, but it really works strikingly well for me. Anyone else have this experience?

                                                      1. I didn't like Campari at all when I first moved to Italy five years ago; it really is an acquired taste. I'm so glad I did acquire it though--there is such a new range of flavors open to me now that I like the bitter taste. If you'd like a good starting point, I'd recommend checking out the recipes here: http://www.aperiti.com/blogs/aperitiv... (the last several are especially for easing your taste buds into Campari). Hope this helps!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: OneMojitoPlease

                                                          Wow, those are some unimaginative Campari drinks on that website.

                                                        2. I made the mistake of ordering a Campari on the rocks once years ago. It was truly undrinkable for me. I have not been successful in appreciating it except for in very small amounts in a mixed cocktail. I think some people are very sensitive to bitter flavors . . .

                                                          9 Replies
                                                          1. re: vday

                                                            Palate-wise, a newbie drinking Campari on the rocks as a first introduction is roughly akin to sending a kindergartener to do a doctoral dissertation in mathematics.

                                                            Give it another try...you'll come around.

                                                            1. re: vday

                                                              I know of no one who drinks Campari straight like that (over ice).

                                                              Campari and soda with an orange slice, or with tonic if you like. Then, move on to a Negroni or Campari with orange juice.

                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                You do now. There are lots of us.

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                                                                1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                  I like it on the rocks, and i've even had it neat on a few occasions, in very small pours - maybe a half ounce - and not found it undrinkable. The only thing i have had so far that I found undrinkable neat was fernet branca.

                                                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                    Interesting - I really don't mind fernet branca neat, but just can't do Campari that way. Even with Campari on the rocks (until some of the ice melts) I sometimes have to convince myself it's some kind of medicine (which I guess it is) to get it down the hatch.

                                                                  2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                    but it's pretty rough if you've never had it before.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      absolutely! I tried it, off and on, for a couple of decades before I saw the appeal. I'm always amazed when someone in their twenties likes amari.

                                                                    2. re: zin1953

                                                                      it was suggested by my Italian companion . . . :-)

                                                                  3. I have frequently (over the years) drunk the "Malaria Killer" Campari and (preferably Schweppes) tonic. Today my local bartender served me a a little aperitif he called a "fampari" which was a !/2 shot of Campari, a a 1/2 shot of shot of Fernet and a dash of Angostura bitters. That has my creative juices going. I think a cocktail with a shot of Campari, a shot of Fernet and about a half can of San Pelligrino Blood Orange (Aranciata Rossa) soda will be excellent.

                                                                    1. If you make it into a Negroni the first time (1/3 Campari, 1/3 gin, 1/3 sweet vermouth to cut the tartness), you will love it at first taste. You can then progress to Campari with soda, then to Campari on the rocks. It is not as bitter as Amaro, etc., but is refreshingly tart. Also, it will not "spoil" any time soon.