Beyond Campari: The Bitter Aperitivo
Let's be clear, I love me some Campari. It's bitter, it's aggressive, and it's very, very red. This list of Campari alternatives is not about which one is better, it's just here to give you some options. Maybe Campari isn't quite your thing, or perhaps you want something a bit more artisanal. Something local? Maybe you're like me and you just have to try everything because you can't help it.
Of this list, it's my favorite for a classic Negroni. The mouthfeel is light, but not thin. Bitter, but not palate wrecking. I get a lot of rhubarb and citrus, with a dry finish.
Bruto (St George)
Hot off the presses, this one is not at all what I expected. Like their Terroir gin, the Bruto ends up in a class on its own. Every time I taste it the color throws me off, as I expect it to be green. Yep. Tastes like green to me. Very Christmasy. Rosemary and doug fir and those tree lights that look like candles. On that note, it plays well with Chartreuse, they might turn out to be best friends.
Sweet, viscous, closer to Aperol than Campari. Strong hints of bubble gum and mixed fruit cocktail. Maybe my least favorite of the bunch overall, but certainly an interesting study. I recommend this in an Americano with a very spicy vermouth.
Super low in alcohol at only 11%, Aperol is sweet and fruity, heavy on the orange and tangerine notes. Needs a bit of citrus to pick it up in cocktails. Classic in the aperol spritz, which is having its day in Europe and starting to pick up here.
New to the US, this has the fruit of Aperol, the body and sweetness of Capelleti, but a finish that is bitter and takes the spirit full circle. Pretty versatile overall and worth seeking out. Makes a damn fine spritz, so stock up on Prosecco.
Gran Classico (Tempus Fugit)
The gateway to loving Negronis. This is complex, with burnt sugar and caramelized citrus, and has weight to throw around. The spirit leans sweet, so keep that in mind when choosing cocktail ingredients to complement the spirit.
Sadly, still not available in the States, so pick up a bottle the next time you're in Europe. This French spirit has a bitter orange flavor profile, and it's cheap and usually comes in liters. Always bring an extra suitcase.