What is Campari? History, Cocktails, and More

Everything you need to know about this classic italian liqueur

Campari is a popular Italian apéritif that is known for its distinctive bitter flavor.

It is made from a proprietary blend of herbs and spices, and has a bright red color that is instantly recognizable. Campari is typically consumed as a pre-dinner drink, and is often served with soda water or orange juice.

This liqueur has become a staple in Italian culture and is enjoyed by people all over the world.

While the exact recipe for Campari is a closely guarded secret, it is known to contain a blend of ingredients such as bitter orange, rhubarb, and ginseng. The result is a complex flavor profile that is both bitter and sweet, with a hint of citrus.

Despite its acquired taste, Campari has become a beloved drink among cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders. It is often used as a key ingredient in classic cocktails and can also be enjoyed on its own over ice.

With its unique flavor and rich history, Campari is a drink that is sure to impress and delight anyone who tries it.

What is Campari?

Campari is an Italian apéritif that is known for its bitter taste and bright red color.

bottle of campari next to an orange drink on a bar

It is typically consumed before a meal to stimulate the appetite and prepare the palate for the flavors to come. Campari is often used as an ingredient in cocktails, and it has a unique flavor that can be challenging to describe.


Campari was created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, an Italian distiller.

The recipe for the apéritif is a closely guarded secret, but it is known to contain a blend of herbs and spices.

Campari quickly became popular in Italy, and it was soon exported to other countries. Today, Campari is sold in over 190 countries around the world.


The exact recipe for Campari is a secret, but it is known to contain a blend of herbs and spices.

Some of the ingredients that are commonly used in Campari include:

  • Bitter orange
  • Rhubarb
  • Ginseng
  • Cascarilla bark
  • Cinnamon
  • Chinotto

These ingredients are macerated together in alcohol to create the distinctive flavor of Campari.


Campari has a very strong bitter flavor that is often described as an acquired taste.

The bitterness is balanced by a sweet orange flavor, which gives Campari its unique taste. Some people find Campari too bitter to drink on its own, but it is a popular ingredient in cocktails.

When mixed with other ingredients, the bitterness of Campari can add depth and complexity to a drink.

How is Campari Used?


Campari is a versatile ingredient in cocktails, adding a bitter and complex flavor profile.

It is often used as a modifier, meaning it is mixed with other spirits to enhance their flavor. Campari is commonly mixed with gin or vodka, but can also be paired with whiskey or tequila. Some popular cocktails that feature Campari include:

Food Pairings

Campari’s bitter flavor profile also makes it a great addition to food pairings.

charcuterie board with different meats and cheeses

It pairs well with rich and fatty foods, as the bitterness helps to cut through the richness. Some food pairings to consider when using Campari include:

  • Charcuterie
  • Grilled Meats
  • Dark Chocolate

Overall, Campari is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways.

Whether in a cocktail or as a food pairing, its bitter flavor profile adds complexity and depth to any dish or drink.

Campari Variations


Negroni is one of the most popular cocktails made with Campari.

negroni cocktail recipe

It is a classic Italian cocktail that is believed to have originated in Florence in the early 20th century. It is a simple cocktail that is made with equal parts of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.

The cocktail is garnished with a slice of orange and is usually served over ice. Negroni is a bitter and strong cocktail that is an acquired taste.


Americano is another classic cocktail made with Campari.

It is believed to have been invented in the 1860s in Milan. The cocktail is made with equal parts of Campari and sweet vermouth, topped with soda water.

The cocktail is garnished with a slice of orange and is usually served over ice. Americano is a lighter and less bitter cocktail than Negroni.

Campari and Soda

Campari and soda is a simple and refreshing drink that is perfect for a hot summer day.

It is made with equal parts of Campari and soda water. The drink is garnished with a slice of orange and is usually served over ice. Campari and soda is a light and easy-to-drink cocktail that is perfect for those who are new to Campari and want to try it out.


Campari is a unique and complex Italian liqueur that has been enjoyed for over 150 years. Its bright red color, bitter taste, and herbal notes make it a distinctive addition to cocktails and aperitifs.

While not everyone may enjoy the strong bitter flavor of Campari, those who do appreciate it find it to be a versatile and sophisticated ingredient in cocktails.

It is important to note that Campari is not a sweet liqueur, and should not be mistaken for one. Its bitterness can be balanced with other ingredients in cocktails, such as sweet vermouth or citrus juices.

Whether sipped neat or mixed in a cocktail, Campari is a unique and complex spirit that is sure to leave a lasting impression on the palate.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Lauren McKenna

Lauren is a soon to be Temple University graduate. Her love of travel has introduced her to food and drinks from all over the world. She provides MyBartender with a global view of all things alcohol.

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