Did you know that the only reason why we sip, drink, and clink Campari in Bangkok today is because of an old love story between an Italian man and an opera singer?

Or so at least, liquid legend will have us believe.

In lieu of the Campari Bartender Competition Asia 2018, we attended a Campari Masterclass last week, learning all about the history of the infamous red Italian liquor. Hosted by the ever-passionate Campari brand ambassador Daniele Pirotta (who, by the way, claims he has the alcoholic spirit running through his veins), read ahead for some of the most intriguing takeaway points we noted on the course.

Alongside a few of the most iconic Campari cocktail recipes for you to try at home, prepare to raise an eyebrow or two at the sweet story, stylish symbol, and snazzy drinking experience that make up the contemporary and charismatic classic Italian beverage.

All images featured credit: Campari

Campari
Daniele Pirotta

History
Campari gets its name from its founder, Gaspare Campari, who conjured up the distinctive bitter flavoured liquid in Novara, Italy, in the 1860s. With a vibrant red colour and an intense aroma, it comes as no surprise that the alcoholic spirit became a hit soon after Gaspare started selling it in his shop. Upon moving to Milan, the father of four opened the ‘Caffé Campari’ (now ‘Camparino’) bar in the city centre next to the famous Duomo, which quickly became the centre of Milan’s artistic and cultural scene. The brand became known for its precious collaborations with artists to create extravagant advertising posters, marking the beginnings of Campari’s connections to the world of art.

Campari cocktails
Early Campari posters

As for its distribution, a sweet anecdotal bird tells the story of Gaspare’s son, Davide, falling in love with Italy’s greatest opera singer of the time, Lina Cavalieri. Lina would sing at the opera just a few metres from the Camparino, and it quickly became fanciful evening protocol for opera visitors to have an aperitivo at the bar after the performance. Lina soon rose to great fame and began singing in France, shortly after which distribution of Campari extended from Italy to the competitive neighbouring country of France, too.

As Lina became even more internationally desired, she moved to Russia, where she also got married, and again, Campari followed, expanding its network over the Eastern European countries. As a final jump, the singer then started performing on Broadway, causing Davide to follow heart and suit once again, and begin distribution in the States, and on to the rest of the world. It’s a heartwarming tale of quite possibly the sweetest marketing strategy in alcohol history.

Campari cocktails
Campari advertising poster

As classic cocktails gained popularity throughout the years, Campari became a staple in bars around the globe, especially after the invention of the Americano and the Negroni in the 1920s. The original ‘Camparino’ bar is still open today, serving both the classic creations from back in the day, as well as modern reinterpretations. Made up of an infusion of bitter herbs, aromatic plants, and fruit, the spirit’s recipe remains unchanged to this very moment, and only two individuals in the world know of its exact contents.

A soulful way to attempt to guess its secret formula, read ahead for some of our favourite official Campari cocktail recipes. A spirit that demands to be the star and never overcomplicated, consider these a journey through time (and Italy) from the rim of the cocktail glass.

Campari Clocks
Campari Clocks

Americano
There are many stories surrounding the origins and name of this infamous cocktail, one of which claims that it is an homage to Primo Carnera, the first Italian (and non-American) to win the world heavyweight boxing championship in America. The Americano has a prime spot on the official cocktail list of the International Bartending Association (IBA), meaning that it is prepared all around the globe to this exact original recipe. Another sweet fun fact: the Americano is also James Bond’s beverage of choice in Casino Royale.

Ingredients:
1 part (3cl) Campari
1 part (3cl) Red Vermouth
Splash of soda

Method:

  1. Pour the ingredients directly in a rock tumbler glass
  2. Fill with ice cubes
  3. Add a splash of soda water
  4. Garnish with orange slice or lemon peel
Campari cocktails
Americano

Negroni
This is quite possibly the most beloved Campari cocktail, and not without reason. A simple and yet balanced beverage, the Negroni was invented in 1919 by Count Negroni. Honouring his last trip to London, the Count asked to add gin instead of soda to his Americano, and thus the cocktail was born. The Negroni too is part of the IBA cocktail list.

Ingredients:
1 part (3cl) Campari
1 part (3cl) Gin
1 part (3cl) Red Vermouth
1 slice of orange

Method:

  1. Pour all ingredients directly into a rock tumbler glass filled with ice
  2. Garnish with a slice of orange
Campari cocktails
Negroni

Negroni Sbagliato
It all began with an accident. In 1972, bartender Mirko Stocchetto at Milan’s Bar Basso mistakenly added sparkling wine instead of gin to a Negroni, leading to the invention of the classic Negroni Sbagliato. Bubbly but still reminiscent of the Negroni’s sharp taste, ‘sbagliato’ actually translates to ‘mistaken’ from Italian.

Ingredients:
1 part (3cl) Campari
1 part (3cl) Red Vermouth
1 part (top) sparkling wine

Method:

  1. Build in a double rocks glass with ice
  2. Garnish with a slice of orange
Campari cocktails
Negroni Sbagliato

Campari Orange
It’s like a sunset in a glass. Campari Orange was originally named by Italian soldier Garibaldi, who fought for the Italian unification movement. The cocktail contains the union of the northern Milan Campari with the southern Italian oranges, giving the beverage its eye-catching colour and unique sweet taste.

Ingredients:
1 part (4cl) Campari
3 parts (top) Orange juice

Method:

  1. Pour the ingredients into a tall glass filled with ice
  2. Garnish with a slice of orange
Campari cocktails
Campari Orange

Campari Milano
A modern reinterpretation of the Campari Spritz, the Campari Milano makes for a refreshing summer drink. Flowery with a touch of mint and elderflower, it’s a popular beverage to cool hot nights, with the bubbles adding a fun feel.

Ingredients:
1 part (4,5cl) Campari
1 part (3cl) Elderflower syrup
3 parts (9cl) Prosecco
5 mint leaves

Method:

  1. Prepare directly inside an ice filled wine glass
  2. Pour the Prosecco first then the elderflower and finally the Campari
  3. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and stir gently
Campari cocktails
Campari Milano

Lisa Gries
Managing Editor, Bangkok
Lisa loves to travel, and is always on the lookout for the world’s best nap spots. She’s a serious Asian art history nerd, and has a knack for languages and coffee table books. She hopes to publish her own novels one day, one of which will likely be called ‘All The Great Conversations I Had In A Bangkok Speakeasy.’ It’s a work in progress.