Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bold New Campari Recipes That Go Way Beyond Negronis and Americanos

How beautiful. The Black Currant Sparkler gets its kick from Campari, the classic Italian aperitivo.

If you’re familiar with Campari, that glowing red aperitivo that’s used in a classic Negroni and Americano, you know it pulls no punches. It’s either love at first sip, or, well, let’s not even go there. For you see, knowing how to mix this bittersweet orange amaro is a skill worth seeking out, and we have five recipes, from five of New York’s most noteworthy mixologists, sure to make your trip to the liquor store worth it.

The lovely Hanna Lee, of Hanna Lee Communications, a lady who knows how to throw one helluva party, invited us to attend Campari’s “Life with a Twist: Aperitivo and Beyond” at NYC’s Silver Lining, where these five esteemed bartenders shook and stirred their creations for an eager crowd of thirsty (and hungry) imbibers. Creative and traditional food, along with some holiday flash, adorned each bar, and Campari revelers got the chance to chat with the men and women behind the sticks to find out how they came up with the recipes (each created three drinks).

Paul got to shoot the breeze with Dushan Zaric, mastermind cocktail creator at Employees Only and the Macao Trading Co., whose Malena cocktail blew his mind. Dushan, who has a strong culinary background, revealed to Paul two secrets behind the success of this drink’s ever-changing long finish: using an easy-to-mix rye that does not impart too much oakiness, and the few drops of orange blossom (or orange flower) water that unite the ingredients, thus extending the finish. We tried making this at home with another rye just to see how different it could possibly be, and it indeed was. We will be using Wild Turkey 101 exclusively for this drink from now on.

Steve spoke with the charming Christy Pope, of Cuffs & Buttons Cocktail Catering, who explained that she approached her dessert cocktails with a light hand on the sugar. Most of us associate dessert drinks with heavy cream and lots of sweet liqueurs, but Christy decided to focus on flavor rather than calorie content. Her Black Currant Sparkler lit up the bar with its blend of gin, prosecco, and Campari, lightly embellished with a purple orchid and a spritz of white crème de cacao and vanilla extract to add aroma. Heavenly.

So, if you love Campari, dive right in to these five glorious recipes, all perfect for different occasions. If you’ve had reservations in the past because you thought Campari was too bitter, don’t be afraid. You’ll wipe away these fears with a few sips of these masterly cocktails.

Aged Spirits Cocktail
(created by by Dushan Zaric)

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Wild Turkey 101 rye whiskey
3/4 ounce ruby port
5 drops of orange blossom water (aka orange flower water)
2 dashes of orange bitters
ground cinnamon, as garnish
orange half-wheel, as garnish

Stir all ingredients, except orange blossom water, in a mixing glass briefly. Add 5 drops orange blossom water over ice in rocks glass. Strain liquid in mixing glass into rocks glass. Garnish with ground cinnamon and an orange half-wheel.

Brunch Cocktail
Roasted Orange Sbagliato
(created by Joe Campanale)

1 1/4 ounces Campari
1 ounce sweet red vermouth
1 1/4 ounce Lambrusco Bianco, or other sparkling white wine
1 roasted orange wedge

Place the roasted orange wedge in a mixing glass and add vermouth. Muddle the two so that the charred bits are released into the vermouth. Add Campari and ice, and shake hard. Strain into a wine glass filled with ice and add sparkling wine.

Winter Entertaining Cocktail
Gaspare’s Winter Punch
(created by Julie Reiner)

3/4 cup Campari
3/4 cup orange liqueur
2 bottles medium-bodied red wine
6 cups cranberry juice
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
6 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
10 whole allspice
6 whole star anise
1 whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract

Sort cranberries discarding bruised fruit. Rinse and place in a six-quart pan with raisins, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cranberry juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes to blend flavors. Add wine and sugar and heat until steaming (6-8 minutes). Do NOT bring to a boil. Add Campari, orange liqueur, and almond extract. Strain out cranberries and ladle into punch cups. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise.

Summer Greenmarket Cocktail
Red Square
(created by Dave Wondrich)

1 1/2 ounces Campari
1/4 ounce wildflower honey syrup*
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 fresh raspberries
2 ounces brut champagne

Place ingredients (except champagne) in a mixing glass and shake hard with ice. Double strain into chilled champagne flute and top off with 2 ounce chilled brut champagne. Add a raspberry for garnish.

*To make wildflower honey syrup, stir 1 part organic wildflower honey with 1 part hot water until honey has dissolved. Bottle and refrigerate.

Dessert Cocktail
Black Currant Sparkler
(created by Christy Pope)

1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce gin
1 tablespoon black currant preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white crème de cacao

Place ingredients (except prosecco) in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a coupe glass and top with prosecco. Garnish with an edible pansy.

How does Campari get its unusual vermilion hue? Well, originally the dye used to color it was derived from crushed cochineal insects. We can assure you that the bottles reaching American shores do not have such a distinction (at least that’s the word on the street—Campari, like any spirit that has managed to stay popular over the course of time, keeps its recipe hush-hush).

Photos of cocktails courtesy of Hanna Lee Communications; photo of Campari bottle courtesy of

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