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11 Astonishing Facts About Campari Spritz

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The Campari Spritz has become an iconic Italian aperitif cocktail that is now enjoyed all over the world. This bittersweet and vibrant red drink made with Campari, prosecco, and soda water is the perfect way to whet your appetite before a meal.

Here are 11 astonishing facts you may not have known about the classic Campari Spritz:

campari spritz

Introduction

The Campari Spritz originated in Italy in the 19th century as a wine-based mixed drink or spritz. It has since evolved into the popular aperitif we know today made with the bitter liqueur Campari, sparkling prosecco wine, and soda water. This refreshingly bitter cocktail has a beautiful dark red hue that makes it visually stunning as well.

The Campari Spritz has steadily grown in popularity in recent years and can now be found on menus at Italian restaurants and bars globally. While the original recipe calls for equal parts Campari, prosecco, and soda, there are many riffs on this formula as well.

Now, here are some fascinating facts and backstories behind the ubiquitous Campari Spritz cocktail:

1. Campari Was Invented as a Medicine

The primary ingredient in a Campari Spritz is the bitter, herbal Italian liqueur called Campari. Did you know that Campari was invented in 1860 as a medicinal elixir? It was created by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy and was originally called Bitter all’Uso d’Hollanda. It was marketed as a panacea that could cure various medical ailments.

2. The First Campari Recipe Was a Closely Guarded Secret

The early Campari recipe was a closely guarded secret known only to the Campari family. It was not until 1904 that the first promotional materials stated the ingredients as: alcohol, water, dyes and flavorings from aromatic herbs. The exact formula with precise measurements is still confidential today.

Campari Spritz

3. Campari’s Vibrant Red Color Comes from Dye

The deep red color of Campari comes from carmine dye which is derived from crushed cochineal insects. Carmine dye has been used for centuries to give foods and drinks vibrant red coloring. Other natural ingredients like herbs, fruits, barks, roots, and spices infuse Campari with its bitter, aromatic flavor.

4. Campari’s Bitter Taste Comes from Chinino

A key ingredient that gives Campari its distinct bitter taste is Chinino. Chinino is the Italian name for quinine which comes from the bark of the cinchona tree. Quinine powder has been used to treat malaria and give tonic water its bitter, medicinal taste.

5. Campari Should Be Served Chilled but Not with Ice

To best enjoy Campari’s complex flavor profile, it should be served chilled but not diluted with ice. Ice would reduce the rich body and smooth intensity of flavors. Between 41° to 46° Fahrenheit (5° to 8° Celsius) is considered the ideal serving temperature for Campari.

6. Campari is Often Mixed with Sweet Ingredients to Balance the Bitterness

On its own, Campari has an assertively bitter taste. That’s why it’s usually mixed with sweet ingredients like fruit juices or vermouth to balance and round out the bitterness. A sweet and bitter balance underpins many classic Campari cocktails. The prosecco and soda water in a Campari Spritz temper the bitterness.

7. The Campari Spritz was Born in Northern Italy

The roots of the Campari Spritz can be traced to 19th century Northern Italy. The story goes that Austrian soldiers introduced the practice of adding soda water to wine, which became known as a Spritz or “splash.” The first Campari Spritzes were made in northeast Italy by substituting Campari for wine.

Campari Spritz

8. Why the Campari Spritz is Served in Wine Glasses

The Campari Spritz originated as a wine cocktail, so it is traditionally served in white or red wine glasses. The wide bowl shape allows for appreciation of the Spritz’s stunning ruby color. The large opening also helps aerate the aromas and bubbles.

9. There are Regional Variations of the Campari Spritz

While the equal-parts Campari, prosecco and soda water formula is canonical, there are regional variations across Italy. In Milan, orange juice is occasionally added to the mix. In coastal cities like Venice, Aperol is sometimes substituted for Campari for a slightly sweeter and less bitter drink.

10. The Garnish Varies from Simple to Elaborate

An orange slice is the customary garnish for a Campari Spritz. But some mixologists get creative with garnishes like orange wheels, olives, rosemary sprigs or even orange peel. In Venice, a more elaborate presentation often includes an orange wedge, olive, and a green olive on a cocktail skewer.

11. Campari Spritz Day is Officially November 8

The iconic status of the Campari Spritz cocktail is confirmed by its very own international holiday. Launched in 2020, Campari officially declared November 8 to be National Campari Spritz Day. The date was chosen because 11/8 resembles the ratio of ingredients in a classic Campari Spritz: 1 part Campari, 1 part prosecco, and 8 parts soda water. Cheers to that!

Campari Spritz

Conclusion

The Campari Spritz has clearly come a long way since its origins as a medicinal bitter liqueur in 19th-century Italy. It evolved from a closely guarded secret recipe to a pre-dinner cocktail sensation famous for its vibrant ruby-red hue. This drink continues to win over fans worldwide with its irresistible bitter and sweet-flavor profile.

The next time you sip a nicely chilled Campari Spritz, you can appreciate all the intriguing stories behind this iconic Italian aperitif. From Campari’s history to the Spritz’s regional variations, there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to this celebrated cocktail.


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