I think it’s fair to say cocktails, of the classic variety at least, are something of an acquired taste. Many of my friends have a passing interest in mixed drinks but are more used to the sugary concoctions chain-pubs serve, and when presented with something like a Martini or Manhattan they tend to wince, unable to taste beyond the alcohol. Of course once your palate is adjusted to such libations, a whole new world is unlocked, but for many getting over that initial learning curve is just too difficult.
Personally, as I’m sure you can tell, I’ve had no such trouble, and happily enjoy most liquors both in cocktails and alone. However, there is one spirit which I’ve never quite managed to muster much fondness for – Campari. I’ve tried it in a number of different cocktails but the heavy bitterness has always been too much for me. I guess it’s my sweet tooth – I’m a sucker for sweets, chocolate and anything loaded with sugar, and Campari is the very antithesis of this.
However, I’m not one to give up easily. It’s been a while since I last looked at Campari here, but I have had the odd Union Club since then and thought it was probably time to give it another go…
- 1½ shots / 45 ml / 1½ oz Bourbon whiskey
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz sweet vermouth
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz Campari
- Stir all ingredients with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon or orange zest twist.
The Boulevardier comes courtesy of Craig’s recent post, who in turn took it from Ted “Dr Cocktail” Haigh’s column in Imbibe. The original recipe called for a 3:2:2 ratio, but upon trying that I found the Campari a little too dominant. However, upping the Bourbon to a 2:1:1 ratio, and using a nice spicy Bourbon like Buffalo Trace, made the drink more to my liking. Paul even swapped in rye, which I have yet to do but sounds tasty.
The increased Bourbon moves it from an afterthought to the headliner, with the drink kicking off with a nice dose of bourbon, and an almost sweet taste with some aromatics in the background. However, it doesn’t take long for the Campari to show up, with a bitter hit that develops as the drink progresses. The lemon zest also blossoms towards the end, resulting in a complex, evolving finish. Overall, a pretty good cocktail, and certainly the most appealing Campari-based drink I have tried yet.
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz dry gin
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 shot / 30 ml / 1 oz Campari
- Stir all ingredients with ice and strain in to an ice-filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.
It’s probably a year since I made my first and only Negroni, and while I did finish the drink it certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable cocktail I had tried. However, after the success of the Boulevardier I decided it was perhaps time to take another look at what is perhaps the most famous Campari cocktail. Legend has it the drink was invented in 1919 when Count Negroni requested gin instead of soda water in his Americano. The drink doesn’t turn up in cocktail guides until the fifties, which casts some doubt over that story, but whatever the truth it is without doubt a true classic.
My memories of the Negroni centre mainly on the extremely bitter flavour the drink had. I was pleasantly startled then, when the taste that greeted me this time around was an orangey sweetness, with a slight floral quality. There were also plenty of gin notes, no doubt helped by the fact I used Tanqueray, a nice strong traditional gin. Like the Boulevardier it didn’t take long for the bitterness of the Campari to come through, but this time it really seemed to work, blending perfectly with the other flavours in the drink. Much to my surprise, and delight, I found myself really enjoying the Negroni.
I think I may have finally cracked Campari…
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