Campari Cocktails: How to Use Campari

July 2, 2020

Campari is one of the most recognizable bar ingredients in the world. And thanks to the vivid red hue, so are Campari cocktails. Even casual cocktail drinkers will be familiar with some of the ways Campari is used, primarily in the Negroni, a drink belonging on the Mount Rushmore of cocktailing. But there’s much more to the liqueur than that, though. As such, it’s worth examining the ingredient and how it can be used to help expand your repertoire.

Campari is a bitter liqueur, though bitterness and a red color are far from its only distinguishing characteristics. In fact, its bitter quality is far from overpowering. It co-mingles with a citrus-forward flavor profile, replete with orange and grapefruit, herbaceous notes, and a layer of syrupy sweetness. We’ve got a few recipes below to show you how to use Campari in your next drink.

Classic Campari Cocktails

In Campari classics, you’ll tend to find the liqueur playing alongside its favored partner, sweet vermouth.


-1 ounce Campari
-1 ounce sweet vermouth
-1 ounce gin

Directions: Stir all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve over ice, or up, depending on preference. Garnish with an orange peel.

This is where it all begins. As for Campari cocktails, the Negroni is the quintessential example. It displays a rounded, though spirit-forward, profile which exemplifies the idea of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

Negroni /Photo Credit: Campari


-1 ounce Campari
-1 ounce sweet vermouth
-1 ounce bourbon

Directions: Stir all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up. Garnish with an orange or lemon peel.

In the Boulevardier, bourbon is used in place of gin, though there’s room for you to finagle this one in a few ways. You could opt to use rye whiskey instead of bourbon, and though the Boulevardier is generally served up, you could of course deploy it on the rocks if that’s your preference.

Negroni Sbagliato

-1.5 ounces Campari
-1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
-1.5 ounces Prosecco

Directions: Stir the Campari and vermouth with ice. Add the Prosecco on top. Lightly stir again. Garnish with an orange slice.

“Sbagliato” translates to mistaken, and the story behind the drink, first served at Bar Basso in Milan, was that the use of Prosecco instead of gin was a bartender’s hasty mistake. Of course, as with most legends, that’s not entirely true. The drink was indeed created there, though it was on purpose, which does nothing to diminish its delightful effervescent and bitter tag-team.


-1.5 ounces Campari
-1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
-soda water

Directions: Stir the Campari and vermouth with ice. Top the glass with soda water, lightly stir again, and garnish with a lemon or orange slice.

When it’s time for a low ABV drink you can embark on a session with on a sunny afternoon, the Americano has few rivals.

More Campari Cocktails to Try

Is there life beyond the classics for Campari cocktails? Different ingredients to deploy it with besides sweet vermouth? You betcha.

Old Pal

-1 ounce Campari
-1 ounce dry vermouth
-1 ounce rye whiskey

Directions: Stir all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up. Garnish with a lemon peel.

The Old Pal is by no means a new drink, but rather is a largely overlooked historical one, overshadowed both by the Negroni and the Boulevardier. Here, the spice of the rye whiskey dances with the dry vermouth, taking the drink in a different direction than its more famous siblings.

Old Pal

Italian Gentleman

-1.5 ounces Campari
-1.5 ounces bourbon
-.75 ounce lemon juice
-.25 ounce simple syrup

Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice, optionally adding 2-3 dashes of orange bitters to taste. Strain and serve up. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Carey Jones and John McCarthy included this recipe for the Italian Gentlemen in their book, “Be Your Own Bartender“. The fresh lemon juice plays off Campari’s citrus notes, while brightening and lightening the drink. It’s a spirituous cocktail which manages to avoid being bogged down by the weight of something such as sweet vermouth.

Jungle Bird

-1.5 ounces dark rum
-1.5 ounces pineapple juice
-.75 ounces Campari
-.5 ounce lime juice
-.5 ounce simple syrup

Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain and serve over fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

As for Campari cocktails, you should have some fun and also not be afraid to head in an entirely different direction. This tiki staple was created at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton Aviary Bar in 1978, and holds up just as well today. If you have demerara sugar on hand, make your simple syrup with that instead of white sugar.

Ready to try crafting these Campari cocktails?

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