For me this is best served in a double rocks glass filled to the brim with clear ice. I mean it: right to the top. If your ice floats once you’ve poured the drink then you’re doing it wrong. Or you could do as the Milanese do and chill the Campari, the soda, and the glass before serving. Bit of a faff. Ice works. Ice is great. If you’re worried it will over-dilute your drink just knock it back faster.
Next up you need to pick your ratio. Campari sells a premixed version that uses three parts soda to one part Campari, but I prefer it poured 1:1. (Kate Hawkings, author of the superb Aperitif, backs me up on this.) Tonight I have garnished mine with two neon cocktail cherries on a metal pick. Usually I prefer the almost-purple Luxardo ones but for this drink the bright red buggers seemed more apt. To be honest an orange slice or twist would do a better job, but I work with what I have.
Drink made, the glass sits before me slightly chill-frosted, with the light from the TV shining through it. My god, but this is a good-looking drink. It makes me want to brush up on my colour vocabulary — for the reds obviously. Is it carmine or crimson? No, I think scarlet is the word. Kate Hawkins calls it a “come-to-bed redness.” A vivid, vibrant red that edges towards orange, like the drink’s flavour. That is bitter orange, Seville orange, with gentian and a herbal bitterness following on behind — all from a secret blend of 68 botanicals. Overall it’s bittersweet, and if you drink the Campari neat you’ll see how sweet it really is, packed with something like 220 grams per litre of residual sugar. But lengthened with soda over lots and lots of ice this is tempered, and strangely enough adding water makes the drink seem drier.
It’s the simplest of drinks, but who needs complication when simple is this glorious? Good luck sticking to just one.
My new book, Gin A Tasting Course, is “a flavour-led approach to the world of gin” featuring over 100 gins reviewed and grouped by flavour profile. It’s published by DK and available in all good bookshops, or you can order a copy online »