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Vivacious Campari is down for the count in 2014

By Patricia Noonan Vibrant, intense and vivaciously versatile: that's a good description of the aperitif style bitter created by Gaspare Campari in Italy in the 1860's. A brilliant red, Campari is quite unlike the ‘other' bitters that are usually dark brown, quite medicinal and often used for a dash of flavor in cocktails or as après dinner digestifs. The bitter aspect is essential oil flavouring from bitter orange combined with numerous other secret ingredients to give it that distinctive zing. While it's typical to enjoy a Campari with orange juice or spritzed with soda and a slice of orange, it's one of the major ingredients for that cocktail classic known as the Negroni. Campari just might have remained anonymous if it weren't for Count Negroni, who the classic cocktail was named for. History has it that Count Negroni wanted his Americano cocktail juiced up with gin instead of soda, hence that famous unforgettable cocktail. Over the last few years, the negroni has undergone a revival. Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar in downtown Toronto makes use of one of the newest trends in cocktail culture with the barrel aged cocktail. While a negroni is an even split of gin, red vermouth and Campari, the Scaddabush version has been barrel aged for two weeks in mini American oak casks to add a smooth vanilla-nut character to the cocktail. In east end Leslieville, Good's & Provisions bartender Brett Paulin has created the Campari Cowboy for the spring cocktail list. It's a delicious, yet complex spin on a classic sour.

Campari Cowboy

Ingredients 1.5 oz Bulliet Bourbon .5 oz Amaro Lucano .5oz Campari .75 oz yuzu juice .5 oz fresh lime juice .75 oz ginger-demerara syrup Method Add ingredients to ice filled shaker, shake and strain into coupe glass or old fashioned glass. Across the street at Ascari, it's Negroni Thursdays with the cocktail dropping to $9. Their version adheres to the classic recipe with a little twist; they use a dash of Aperol with a blood orange twist. On the Toronto's west side, Whippoorwill Restaurant & Tavern's bar manager Japhet Bower has concocted the elegant La Strada cocktail.

La Strada

Ingredients 1 oz Campari 1 oz house-made vanilla infused vodka .75 oz lemon juice 1.5 oz grapefruit/orange juice .5 oz simple syrup 3 drops rose water 4 dashes of Gilead Black Walnut Bitters Garnish with orange zest Method Add ingredients to ice filled cocktail shaker, shake and strain into cocktail glass.

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