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I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ was talking about some drink made with what he called Italian bitters or Campari. I did a search on these boards for Italian Bitters and didn't see too much about it. I have a few questions for anyone who has tried it. What do they taste like? Is there alcohol in it? Would it be good in a Manhattan? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance...
It is a bitters - more specifically, it belongs the "aperitif bitters" class of drinks. I've never tried it. Given that I like Punt e Mes (a bittered red vermouth), I expect I'd like it, at least as a mixing ingredient.
The signature cocktail using Campari would be the gin-based Negroni (http://www.cocktaildb.com/recipe_detail?id=3430). However, CocktailDB lists a Manhattan Special Variation (http://www.cocktaildb.com/recipe_detail?id=1414) that uses Campari.
Negroni is the drink they mentioned.
Gruppo Campari owns Skyy Vodka as well as Cinzano vermouth.
Gary Regan's Bartender's Bible contains fourteen cocktails that include Campari.
I used to see magazine ads for Campari all the time. I remember al fresco tables having Campari umbrellas. I also remember the heavy promotion of the drink, Campari and soda.
I, too, have never tried it.
I bought a bottle several years ago and find it too intensely bitter for my taste - and I like heavily hopped beer. I tried it in a Manhattan and didn't even finish it, with soda, in a Negroni, and I think in one or two other cocktails. Finally gave it to friends who like it.
That said, it makes sense to me for anyone who is interested in drink to try it.
Although Punt e Mes is a vermouth, and thus isn't at all the same as Campari, it has a definite bitter tang to it - but it's very different from the bitterness of hops. It starts out with an almost cola-like sweetness, then the bitter side hits as the sip travels across the tongue. I prefer this to a heavily hopped beer...
Some vermouths, or drinks in that vein, seem to have a light cocoa taste. I wonder if cocoa or chocolate of some kind is used as a flavoring. If so, this may explain why red vermouth blends well with whiskey. Whiskey has its own vanilla, caramel-like quality.
Interesting note on a new(ish) rye-vermouth-Campari cocktail: http://handysnake.blogspot.com/2007/02/1794.html
Well, I finally bit the bullet and picked up a bottle of Campari. I first tried it in a Campari and soda (1 oz. Campari to 2 oz. San Pellegrino), and found that I liked it. I suspect it would be too bitter to drink straight up, though. The serving suggestions on the bottle were: on the rocks with an orange slice, or Campari and soda as I mixed it, or mixed with orange juice.
The bitter tang very definitely reminds me of the bitter side of Punt e Mes, so much so that I think you could make a substitute by spiking some good-quality red vermouth with Campari.
My next drink was a classic Negroni (1:1:1 Plymouth gin, Campari, and Carpano Antica Formula). Oh, my... this is one seriously good cocktail! I think I'm going to go mix another one...
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