In 2014 I was living in Milan, the headquarters of apertivo and Campari. Friday nights I would go out to meet a friend named Catalina at a darling little bar in the city center. She'd hit on the Italian men and I'd pretend to understand their conversation as I stuffed my face full of bruschetta from the bar. Those Friday nights seemed endless as all of Milan continued to whirl around me. All of those nights passed and not once did I try Campari.
Later that year I was taken on a personal tour of the Campari headquarters. The headquarters themselves are something to fall in love with. You walk in and everything is a bright flashy red. You are guided through a beautiful gallery featuring modern Campari art. My favorite is a collection of their vivid advertisement campaigns beginning in the 1880s. My favorite is one that features Spirtello coming out of the top of an orange peel. I left Milan with reprints of my favorite Campari advertising campaigns. I need to honestly take them out to frame them.
I raved about this Campari, this Italian elixir of life, that I had never had. Fast forward four years, and I had still never tried Campari. Sitting in a gruff sports bar of all places, I tried my very first Campari.
Campari is not for the faint of heart. On sip one it is bitter, but by sip three the sharp bitterness turns into sweet delight. Bitter green herbs, parsley and rosemary, cap the start and finish of the aperitif. A sweet orange rind and maraschino cherries occupy the seconds between.
Campari is its own breed, but I feel all the more Italian now that I've tried it.