I paced the aisle more than once, on more than one visit, debating whether I should get it. Buying just a little bit to try was not an option. There was one large bottle selling for about $25 sitting on the top shelf among the other aperitifs.
Campari. It was a fun word to say. One afternoon, I snagged it. I’d been picturing us spending happy hour at home sipping the classic drink, the Negroni. It calls for Campari, that bitter Italian liqueur in a brilliant shade of red. I don’t know when a cocktail has been met with more anticipation in this house.
There are recipes for the Negroni everywhere, including on the bottle of Campari. The recipe on the label calls for 1 ounce of Campari, 1 ounce of Cinzano Rosso vermouth, and 1 ounce gin. But I turned to our new favorite cookbook for how to prepare this vibrantly-colored cocktail.
We sliced an orange and assembled the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. We were instructed that this drink is all about the proportions, and we stuck to them.
It didn’t occur to me that I might not like this drink at all. My first impression was that it was refreshing, but all I tasted was bitterness. I tried a few more sips and then gave up. I didn’t even finish my drink. I’ve finished bad Manhattans (they happen, sadly) but as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t finish this one. So in just a few minutes, Danny was double fisting two Negronis and I had nothing. Nothing but disappointment. And the realization that I guess I just don’t like Campari.
I made myself another drink and tried to catch up, but my mind was still on the Negroni. I’m not usually one for sweet drinks, but I kept thinking the Negroni might’ve been okay for me with the addition of simple syrup. Maybe I should try that. Danny really enjoyed the drink, but he also loves bitter IPAs, which I shun. I order beers along the lines of a saison or a brown ale.
But I’m disheartened. The thing is there’s a blood orange and campari cake in “Polpo” that I’d bookmarked. It is a single-layer cake made with ground almonds and flooded with Campari-based syrup. It’s beautiful. But now I don’t know. How could I love it? And how could I dream of escaping to Venice when I didn’t like an ingredient that’s called for in several recipes from this book. I guess I could stick to Prosecco.
What do you think of Negronis? Or Campari, for that matter.
And here’s the real question — what do I do with the rest of that bottle?
The recipe is in milliliters but just know that the 25 ml called for each ingredient comes to a little less than 1 ounce. The proportions are what’s important, and they shouldn’t be messed with in this cocktail. It seems to be one of those drinks you love or hate. Time to mix up and find out what it is for you.
25 ml gin
25 ml Campari
25 ml sweet vermouth
a slice of orange
Fill a small glass with ice. Pour the ingredients over the ice and stir once or twice. Add a slice of orange and serve.
Makes 1 drink. Recipe from “Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook of Sorts” by Russell Norman.