Campari and Aperol are an acquired taste. I’m sure you know a few people who won’t touch the stuff and some that swear by it. I fall into the latter category. I appreciate their sophisticated depth and find the bitter component they bring to cocktails absolutely essential. If it wasn’t for Campari we wouldn’t have the time-tested Negroni or Americano.
Both Aperol and Campari are Italian aperitivos produced by the Campari Group. Campari was created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari. Aperol was originally created by Luigi and Silvio Barbieri in 1919. They are both characterized as bitters, an alcoholic beverage that is flavored with bitter herbal essences. You will often find them in cocktail recipes tasked with the role of balancing the sweet notes of a recipe, much like their close cousin the amaro.
You’ve probably noticed conversations regarding the use of Aperol vs Campari in cocktail recipes. That’s because they have a lot of similarities, but I feel they are worlds apart. Aperol has a strong orange and mandarin orange flavor with a nice balance between a cinchona and gentian bitterness and an easy sugary sweetness. Campari kicks in with a bold woody bitterness, featuring more of a rhubarb and berry mid palette and finishes with a floral bouquet of potent herbs.
There are a couple things to consider when deciding whether to use Campari or Aperol in a recipe. First, Campari has a considerably bolder flavor, while Aperol has a higher sugar conent. If you prefer cocktails that are bitter then Campari will be your choice. It is harder to balance and needs an equal part sweetening agent like a sweet vermouth. On the other hand, since Aperol is smoother, it is also more versatile.
Second, always consider your color palette. Campari is a darker ruby red, while Aperol has a lighter orange coloring. (An interesting side note: Campari used to get its red coloring from carmine, which is made from cochineal beetles. Yes that’s right, I said beetles)
Third, Campari hass nearly double the alcohol content of Aperol. Aperol lends itself well to a milder, more refreshing summer drink. Campari is often in boozier drinks that pack a punch.
Aperol and Campari will run you around $25 a bottle.
Here are two Post Prohibition original recipes that feature Campari and Aperol.
- 1 1/2 oz Magellan Blue Gin
- 3/4 oz blood orange juice
- 1/2 oz Aperol
- 1/2 oz cinnamon simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- Garnish with an orange twist or blood orange wedge
Add all ingredients in a mixing glass except the orange twist. Dry shake the ingredients to incorporate the egg, I like to use a hand held frother. Add ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the orange twist or blood orange wedge.
- 2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
- 1/2 oz Campari
- 1/2 oz Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 grapefruit twist
Muddle 1 rosemary sprig lightly in a mixing glass. Add all ingredients except the other rosemary sprig and the grapefruit twist. Shake with ice. Double strain into an old fashioned glass on the rocks, or even better one giant ice cube. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and grapefruit twist.