Food & Drink

A Summery Libation You Can Drink All Damn Day

Praising the Wonderful Simplicity of Campari Soda

By Sam Eichner ·
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Photo: Italy Segway Tours
A part of me hates to admit it but the older I've gotten, the plainer my tastes have become. Gone are the days when I’d throw every ingredient I like onto a plate of food with the foolish belief that things that taste good plus other things that taste good ad infinitum is a recipe for success. I’ve made that mistake too many times. Now, I tend to prefer the simple things: the standard cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onions; pizza sans fancy toppings; a classic al pastor taco, just the pork, the pineapple, some salsa and nothing else. It’s boring, but boringness can be a virtue, especially when it comes to food or drink. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let whatever you’re eating or drinking speak for itself.

Nobody follows this rule more fervently than the Italians, whose taste per ingredient quotient—a metric I just made up—is perhaps greater than any other country’s in the world. And so it’s no surprise that they’re the ones behind my go-to summertime libation, the wonderfully simplistic Campari soda.

I first started drinking these regularly in Argentina—that most Italian of South American countries—as a lighter alternative to my other favorite beverage, the negroni. Don’t get me wrong: I love me some negronis. But they’re so full of flavor (not to mention, booze) that it can be hard to take down more than one or two in a single sitting. Plus, unless you’re at a bar of some repute, you run the risk of getting an uneven negroni, with either too much Campari or, gasp, too much vermouth.

That’s why for long summer afternoons spent mostly drinking and trying to continue drinking, I’ll take the more straightforward Campari soda every day—particularly over what might be its two closest rivals, the sweeter Aperol Spritz and Americano. Sure, it’s not as fancy or complex as some other warm weather standards, but when you’re staring down the barrel of a late night from your barstool around 2pm, the last thing you need is more sugar. Or beer, however much it pains me to say that. Campari soda is crisply refreshing, reliable and has enough of a bite to remind you you’re still drinking alcohol. It’s the perfect all-day drink.

So this weekend, pick up a bottle of the stuff, pour it over the ice and fill the glass with soda water—about a 3:1 soda to Campari ratio should work fine, adjusted for optimal bitterness—add an orange peel to bring out its latent fruitiness and drink up. Then keeping drinking up, because Campari is only around 25% alcohol, meaning you’ll get drunk slower than you might with a comparable well drink.

It’s a marathon not a sprint and all that.

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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