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Each summer I tend to gravitate to a particular spirit. Past summers have featured the sweet elderflower St. Germain and the herbalicious Chartreuse.  2010 has been the summer of Campari.  The Italian bitter apertivo turns 150 this year, so why not celebrate it?

I know that Campari is an acquired taste for many, but I just love it.  I love sipping it with soda water and an orange twist and I have been enjoying Negronis like it’s my job.  Part of what I love about Campari is the shock to my taste buds.  Even though I know that the flavor will be an intense bitterness, the bright garnet color deceives me.  The first sip is always a bit of a surprise, but as the flavor settles in I savor the complexity and the dryness.  I love spirits that keep me on my toes and Campari definitely does that.

Campari was created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari.  A talented bartender, he was successfully mixing drinks at the Bass Bar in Turino by the age of 14.  His recipe (still kept secret today) included a combination of herbs, spices, barks, and fruit peels.  The result is a wonderfully bitter flavor!

Throughout its history, Campari has created some amazing art work to promote their product.  They are Italian, I expect nothing less.  I’ve included a couple of my favorites here.

To the summer of Campari and another 150 years of this delicious stuff. Salute!


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The rum was flowing and the songs were playing Monday night as Drink hosted the Boston semi-final round of Appleton Rum Remixology. The challenge was to create a cocktail using Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaican Rum that was inspired by a favorite song.  Five Boston bartenders “performed” their cocktails to their songs of inspiration while us bystanders sipped rum drinks with delicious names like Summer Breeze and Babbino Caro and nibbled on mini-ruben sandwiches.  Each drink and its story of inspiration was unique.  We were privileged to observe Aaron Bulter (Russell House), Corey Bunnewith (Russell House), Cali Gold (Drink), John Mayer (Craigie on Main) and Bryn Tattan (Drink) at their craft.  Here are all the semi-finalist’s recipes. Yum!

But in the end there can only be one winner and that prize went to John Mayer of Craigie on Main.  To the familiar tune of Sherry by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, John doned a Valli-style jacket and mixed his yum Bustamante cocktail while belting out a few of those high-pitched lines.  His singing was not to be outdone by his mixing—he stirred 3 glasses on a spinning turntable while holding up a mini-disco ball. Yes, you read that correctly.

John Mayer mixing his Bustamante cocktail. Thanks for the photo go to Chris Snyder.

A bit of background on John’s inspiration: The Bustamante was named for William Alexander Clark Bustamante, who served as the first Prime Minister of Jamaica when it gained its independence in 1962.  Frank Valli released Sherry in 1962.

Bustamante (created by John Mayer, Craigie on Main)

1 ½ oz Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaican Rum

¾ oz Campari

½ oz Sherry

3 barspoons Benedictine

2 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters

Combine in mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

John will now take his act on the road and represent Beantown in the finals in New York. Best of luck. Cheers!

The Negroni is one of my favorite summer drinks.  I just love sipping the potent bitter complexity on a warm day.  The end of my week-long vacation was sadly in my sights, so I thought what better way to savor the afternoon in the sun than with this delicious drink.

This was my view as I sipped my Negroni

The legend of the Negroni tells us that it was created in the 1920s in Florence, Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to stiffen his Americano, which consists of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water.  A splash of gin was added and the Negroni was born.  While it is served in various fashions, I agree with Dale Degroff that its best over ice with an orange twist.

It was pretty hot Friday afternoon so I made good use of one of those freezer mugs, so my Negroni stayed icy cold. I know its not the proper glassware, but when in the woods you need to get creative.

Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica which is pretty flavorful stuff, so I actually cut this to ¾ oz)

Shake and serve over ice with an orange twist.

Cheers!

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