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Friday, April 20, 2012

Vintage Happy Hour with Audra: Cin Cin Campari!

In 1860 in a small town near Milan, the liquor known as Campari was created. Originally called Bitter all'Uso d'Holanda, it is an infusion of aromatic herbs and other plants (such as ginseng) as well as fruit (like oranges and rhubarb). Made up of anywhere from twenty to sixty ingredients, it is a closely guarded secret. A "bitter" liquor, it’s considered medicinal in quality and was originally taken undiluted before lunch to aid in digestion.

The first Campari cocktail came about during the belle époque of the 1890s. Called the Milano-Torino after the source of its two main ingredients, Campari and vermouth (along with a shot of club soda), the drink was renamed the Americano after its popularity with Americans (and perhaps a marketing ploy to cause more Americans to order it). In 1960, Ian Fleming featured the Americano in his James Bond novel Casino Royale, the first alcoholic drink Bond orders, and in From a View to Kill Bond even clarifies he prefers drinking it over his usual choices when at an outside cafe.

Part of Campari’s appeal might just be the color. The luscious red hue of the liquor comes from a very old, exotic, and classic coloring ingredient: cochineal dye. Made from crushed up beetles, cochineal dye is used for vibrant reds and scarlets, and is still being used today in commercially produced foods. In the 1990s, a cultivar of tomato was dubbed "campari" due to its brilliant red color. In the 1900s, Campari executives worked with leading Italian and other European artists to create iconic images for the brand, and even anthropomorphized the "Red Passion" as a woman. From the start of the 20th century on, she’s been featured and reimagined over and over, spawning the now-famous Campari calendar.

According to one legend, Campari’s most famous cocktail, the Negroni, was invented in 1920 or 1921 in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni asked for his Americano with a shot of gin rather than soda water. In the 1930s, one of the more common ways to drink Campari--with soda--hit mass market with the first premixed drink in history. Combining Campari and soda water, Comparisoda was distributed in a glass bottle designed by Italian graphic designer and inventor Fortunato Depero. Famed Italian tenor Fernando Crivelli, better known as Crivel, recorded an ode to Campari in 1932, L’ora Del Campari, singing about the best time to drink Campari. Check it out in the video below, and check out Campari's website for more gorgeous vintage ads! And the next time you're in the mood for a vintage-inspired cocktail, try Campari's most recent cocktail creation, Campari Orange: three parts Campari to one part orange juice. Campari touts it as "a drink for the ladies, perhaps because of its slight sweetness and explosive taste combination." Cin cin!

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