Bitter is Better: Three Alternatives to Campari

gran-classico-bitter-campari-alternative Do you love the sweet, bitter taste of Campari? On its own, it can be a bit cloying, but in a cocktail, that bitter bite can add layers of flavors to some of the best classic cocktails in the world: the Negroni, the Jasmine, and the Americano, to name a few. If, like us, you’re a bitter drinks lover, check out these three alternatives to Campari.

First on our list is Gran Classico from Tempus Fugit, imported by Anchor Distilling in California. Recently brought back to the American market, this vintage aperitif is quite a lot like Campari, but  has a slightly more mild taste, fuller flavors, and no artificial colors or ingredients.

Gran Classico Bitter is based on the original “Bitter of Turin” recipe dating from the 1800’s. This classic Italian aperitif is an infusion of numerous herbs and roots including bitter orange peel, wormwood, gentian, rhubarb, and other aromatic plants. Gran Classico Bitter’s color is a warm amber, and comes from these herbs and roots, not from dyes or colorings.

We call this cocktail Amore di Arancia (meaning, ‘love of orange’ in Italian) because it celebrates both fresh orange juice, orange peel (oils), and bitter orange in the Gran Classico. The limoncello softens it a bit, and fresh pomegranate juice adds a nice punch, to complement the bitterness of the drink.

Orange pomegranate martiniAmore di Arancia

  • 1 1/2 oz Rye or Potato vodka
  • 1/2 oz Gran Classico Bitter
  • 1/2 oz limoncello
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 oz pomegranate juice
  • Ice cubes
  • 3 orange peels, squeezed over the glass, and discarded
  • Garnish: orange or lime twist

Glass: coupe or martini

Squeeze the orange peels over the glass, and discard.  Combine the rest of the ingredients, shake well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Using Gran Classico Bitter in a Negroni, especially when stirred quite thoroughly, will create a rounder, more flavorful expression of the traditional cocktail recipe.

campari-gin-negroni-cocktailThe Natural Negroni

  • 1 1/2 ounces Boodles gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounces Gran Classico Bitter
  • ice cubes
  • Orange slice or twist for garnish

Glass: highball


Pour the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. Stir well, at least 8 times. Garnish with an orange slice.

capelletti aperitivoAnother bitter cocktail spirit is the Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso. Produced in the Alto-Adige region of Italy, Aperitivo Cappelletti is a deep red, wine-based Italian aperitif that’s been family made for over four generations. Known as “Specialino” by locals in Italy, it is one of the oldest red aperitifs of its kind still in production. Made from mostly Trebbiano grapes, the nose is round and sweet, similar to a vermouth, with just a hint of bitterness and herbs, as well as notes of citrus peel.

Perfect Spritz

  • 3 oz Prosecco
  • 1/2 oz Cappelletti Aperitivo
  • Seltzer or soda
  • orange slice
  • ice cubes

Glass: collins

Pour all ingredients over ice, stir once to blend. Top with soda, garnish with an orange slice.

Also imported through Anchor Distilling, Italian competitor to Campari, Luxardo Bitter was first made in 1885, and continues in the Luxardo style today. Supposedly an appetite stimulant to be sipped before dinner, it is made from the infusion of several herbs and fruits such as: sweet oranges, bitter oranges, rhubarb, marjoram and thyme. The flavor is between Campari and Aperol, with the viscosity being slightly thinner than Gran Classico. The color is bright red, similar to Campari.

Luxardo-Bitter-Campari-AlternativeItalian Horseman

  • 2 oz Corzo Tequila Reposado
  • 1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 oz agave nectar
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1 dash pomegranate bitters
  • ice cubes
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Bitter

Glass: highball

Rinse glass with Luxardo Bitter, discard. Add ice to a shaker, and all ingredients. Stir, strain into a glass filled with ice.


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