Campari – An icon moves forward
A rough start
It was just in the first week after Door 74 officially hid behind its door. It sometimes seems yesterday, sometimes it seems an eternity ago, but it was now almost eight years in fact. A flustered Phillip Duff comes into the bar as i am setting up the bar. “We forgot something crucial” He said. I couldn’t think of what that was. We had been meticulously discussed the ice set-up, as well as fruits and spirit selection. Prices of the drinks had been set and agreed upon. Glasses were decided on and present.
As a (then still) young eager bartender i could not know what we could have possibly overlooked. “We don’t have any Campari” he muttered. It was like thunder hit me. How did i overlook this. How was i going to survive a night with a potential guest ordering a Negroni without me being able to make it?
Campari is like…”
Campari started its rich history in 1860 when it was created by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. It opened its first plant in 1904 in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan. One of its smart moves in the early days was that it required bars that carried its product to also have the Campari Bitters sign, so patrons knew where to find this liquid.
Apart from its striking colour (since 2006 without carmine for the insect lovers among you) it is the proud statement of “Bitter” that strikes the eye, as a gesture to adult, bitter drinking. This is not a drink for the “starting” drinker. It breathes sophistication, a cosmopolitan knowledge.
A bartenders’ companion
Quickly after its creation, bartenders started experimenting with this product, resulting in a cascade of drinks now considered classics, such as the Americano, Boulevardier, and of course, the Negroni.
It is impossible to talk about Campari and not name the Negroni. Its history shrouded in mystery. Was it’s creator, Count Camillo Negroni, really a count? Did he travel to the US later in life to become a rodeo clown? All that is for sure that this was a very special man, with a special drink.
The power of the Negroni lies in both its simplicity, as its depth. It is a drink that is difficult to mess up (how hard is it to do three equal parts?), that every bar can make (except Door 74 on that fateful night it seemed), but still can be twisted upon. Using different and only the freshest vermouth –keep in the fridge people!- and using different gins does not strike this drink down. In fact it creates a welcome surprise.
The Bright red future of Campari
Today, Campari is sold in over 190 countries. One of the things they have been working on since 2013 together with Imbibe, is Negroni Week, where this year thousands of venues (!) from all over the world will donate a minimum of 1$ of each Negroni, and its variations, to the charity of their choice. Last year this resulted in donating 320.000% to charity. A truly great initiative!
Another new project last year was the Campari Negroni competition. Here, seven bartenders from Belgium, and three from the Netherlands battled for the best Negroni variation in the 17th century castle Chateau de la Rocq in Arquennes.
I had the pleasure to come in second place, which won me 500 euro to spend at APS, as well as a mention in their Compendium. The winner was the charming and beautiful Sofie Ketels from Belgium, who i have known for many years and was happy to lose to!
Here is my drink i presented there, “Count Count”, which will be available for tasting at Perfect Serve:
40 ml Campari
40 ml Lillet Rouge
30 ml Bols “silvern Leeuw” Corenwine
1 dash Bittermens orange cream citrate
1 barspoon Sayah Spekkoek liqueur
Stir over ice and strain in chilled coupe. Garnis with an orange zest and physalis.
How did our Campari problems end at Door 74? Well I ran to the corner to Feijoa, and begged to borrow a bottle to borrow. Crisis averted. Glad to be surrounded by friendly neighbour bars.
Campari will be present at Perfect Serve Barshow Amsterdam in the WesterLiefde on 23 and 24 of May.
Words by Timo Janse
Header image by mingchao.nl
In-article picture by Kevin Kroon