Spritz Campari: Milano’s Passionate Red Aperitivo

April 11, 2014 / Food & Wine
Milan, Lombardia
Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio ImagesIt’s no secret that Venetians, well known or anonymous, cherish their hometown favorite, and purportedly Italy’s signature aperitivo (cocktail), the Spritz Veneziano: Aperol, Prosecco, soda water, one green olive and a slice of orange.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country due west of La Serenissima is Milano, the Bel Paese’s button-down business and banking hub and an epicenter for world fashion.

Like Venezia, Milano, the other half of the old Regno Lombardo-Veneto (Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia), was under Austrian rule for quite some time during the 18th and 19th centuries and fell victim to the occupier’s practice of spritzen (German for splashing), diluting strong Italian wine with splashes of water.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio ImagesIf the Lagoon adopted Aperol as its cordial of choice, then the same can be said for Milano and its beloved Campari.

An alcoholic liqueur, Campari is in the family of amari (bitters) and is an infusion of approximately 80 herbs, plants and fruit. Supposedly, only three members of the Campari inner circle know the exact ingredients that go into this bitter, and they’re not talkin’.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio ImagesCampari was created back in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, a master drink maker who honed his craft serving up his creations to the elite of Torino. Eventually, he brought his talent, the secret bitter and his namesake brand to Milano where he launched the family business (restaurant, bar and wine shop) under a large Campari sign in the iconic Galleria di Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest enclosed shopping mall named in honor of the first king of the Kingdom of Italy.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio ImagesCampari’s distinctive red color was an immediate hit after its first pour and gave rise to the national pastime of drinking aperitivi — a simple excuse to join up with friends or business partners at a local watering hole to discuss the day’s events, close a deal or plot the future. Yes, we can all give thanks to Signor Campari for this refreshing daily ritual.

Today, Campari, the “red passion,” is the essential ingredient for a host of internationally-known aperitivi: Negroni, l’Americano, Garibaldi, Spritz and other short and long drinks. Here’s the recipe for the crowd-pleasing Spritz Campari.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

Milano and Venezia, once united under a single kingdom during Austrian rule, now divided by two bottles of bitters. If given the choice, which one would you choose, Aperol or Campari?


by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian Traveler.com, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based TravelingBoy.com, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

24 Responses to “Spritz Campari: Milano’s Passionate Red Aperitivo”

  1. My pick would be Campari being that it was my father’s favorite. I still have his unopened bottle he bought before passing away in 1981, it’s part of my shrine in his honor.

  2. Whatever your choice will be (Aperol or Campari cocktail) , you will need a place to sip it. The good new is that Milan has an incredibly wide offer of trendy cocktail bars where to order an “Aperitivo”, usually offered with an endless variety of side dishes such as pasta, risotto, salads, ham, cheeses, meat balls, sausages, bits of pizzas and even exotic food such as sushi or curry. The most reputed areas for Aperitivo are Brera, Navigli, and Corso Como, but the offer is really endless.

  3. Linda Boccia

    Sempre, sempre Campari! Aperol is but a dull second to the lively Campari and soda with a slice of lemon. One is more sweet than refreshing and Campari is both amaro and refreshing.

  4. Bobby, A celebrated barista in San Francisco’s North Beach, at Moose’s before it closed, now nearby on Green Street, had hands and tongue to make another Campari irresistible. Arthur Bierman

  5. NOOOOOOOO! It’s just got to be Aperol Spritz: Aperol, Prosecco, soda and a slice of orange. Forget the olive. Oh, and the glass has to be turned upside down in sugar so that it’s clinging to the top of it. Have to go and buy a bottle now!

    • Marian — The true Spritz Veneziano calls for a green olive, but, hey, toss it out. It’s your cocktail. Cin cin!

  6. JJ Jacobs

    Just yesterday I was enjoying a Campari drink I like, which was devised from necessity one day when I was out of Prosecco. I like Campari and tonic water. Very refreshing and quite simple. Ingredients 1/2 Campari and 1/2 tonic water. As “Mikey” would say, “try it you’ll like it.”

  7. liked the article about Campari….just had a Negroni the other night…very good!
    I am going to try the Campari spritz for my guests this Easter Sunday…can’t wait to try it!

  8. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Greetings from Campiglia in Tuscany, full moon, Easter and aperitivi. Ok convinced, will change my spritzer from a aperoli to Compari! Many thanks!

  9. Marcia Bailey

    Aperol is my choice, have enjoyed many variations on a theme in various spots in Italy. I guess Marian and I are the only holdouts for Aperol.

  10. Connie Grigsby

    Always love an Italian history lesson…but mostly my mouth is watering!! Aperol Spritz for me please!!! These 2 drinks certainly add to the spring color blooming in Italy!!


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