Campari is a popular liqueur that’s been around since the 1860s. It’s made from herbs and spices, including gentian root, rhubarb, chamomile, cardoons, and other botanicals.
Campari has a bitter flavor that can be described as bittersweet or slightly vegetal. Campari also contains 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof). The bitter taste of Campari makes it an ideal drink for pairing with soda water or club soda to create a long drink called Americano con Campari.
Campari is also used in cocktails like Negroni, Boulevardier, or Americano con Campari. Some people prefer to use Campari instead of vermouth when making martinis because it adds a unique flavor profile to their cocktail.
But what happens if you don’t have any Campari at home? Is there any substitute for this bitter liquor?
In this article, we will show you some great alternatives to Campari which include Punt e Mes Bitters, Aperol, Mezcal, and Dry Vermouth.
Why Do People Drink Campari?
Campari is an Italian liqueur that has been around since 1860. It is made from a blend of herbs, fruits, and spices, and it’s bitter in taste. The exact recipe is kept secret, so when you order Campari at a bar or restaurant (or make one at home), you won’t know exactly what flavors are going into your drink.
While you can drink it neat or on the rocks, Campari is most commonly used to make cocktails like the Negroni and Americano with Soda Water. These drinks use Campari because it adds complexity to other ingredients in the cocktail–in this case, gin or vermouth respectively–without overpowering them with sweetness or spice like some other liqueurs might do!
You can also use Campari as an ingredient for making sodas by mixing it with club soda (or sparkling water) and then adding some syrup or juice if you want something sweetened up too; these sodas are perfect summertime drinks!
What Can I Use Instead of Campari?
Campari, being Italian, is not always easy to find so if your favorite bottle is now empty and you can’t go find more yet, here’s some substitutes that might satisfy you until you can get your hands on more.
1. Punt e Mes
Punt e Mes is an Italian vermouth that’s made from wine and bitter herbs. It’s considered a popular alternative to Campari, especially since it contains less alcohol than the latter.
Punt e Mes was created in 1876 by the Carpano family from Turin. The recipe was then passed down through generations until it reached its current form today. It’s named for the bitterness sitting between that of vermouth and Campari. Punto e mes means “point and a half”.
The strong flavor of herbs blended with the spiciness of orange peel, cardamom, and clove make it very appealing for cocktails. As such, it’s often used instead of Campari.
To use as the perfect Campari substitute, mix equal parts Punt e Mes and sweet vermouth with a splash of Angostura bitters. You’ll get all the complexity of flavor as Campari without the intense bitterness.
Aperol is a bitter Italian aperitif made from gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona bark. It has a sweeter taste than Campari and has an orange hint to it as well.
This makes it an excellent substitute for Campari if you want to try out something new or if you just don’t want your drink to be too bitter.
Aperol is produced in Italy and can be found at most liquor stores around the world.
To use Aperol as a substitute for Campari, mix equal parts of Aperol and soda water.
Even better, it’s much easier to find in your local liquor store.
This dark herbal liqueur has a bittersweet flavor. A very distinctive flavor profile is created with the use of artichoke leaf extract.
Much like Campari, Cynar can be mixed into your favorite cocktails or be sipped on its own.
When using it as a Campari substitute, remember that this liquor is sweeter and not quite as strong in the realm of flavor. To balance out that lack of flavor you may want to add more gin or vodka.
4. Amer Picon
This French liquor is often used instead of Campari.
While Aer Picon is on the sweeter side with less of the bitter flavors. It’s used in many cocktails on its own as the citrus and sweet flavors combine well with the profiles of many drinks.
While it’s an amazing addition to your drink, the flavor with Amer Picon will change drastically. Not in a bad way, but if you really want the flavor added with Campari you might be disappointed.
5. Fernet Branca
Another Italian bitter, Fernet Branca often used as a digestif.
Like Campari, it has a very strong and bitter taste that doesn’t appeal to some. Despite that, it makes a great addition to cocktails while aiding digestion.
It adds a similar depth and complex flavor profile to your drink like Campari. If using Amer Picon instead of Campari, start out with a small amount as it’s more potent a liquor.
6. Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso
Another wine-based Italian bitter, Cappelletti, is an easy substitute for Campari. It also works incredibly well as a solo drink.
With the wine base, you’ll find this liquor to be lighter and fruitier than Campari. If you’re using it in your favorite Campari cocktails instead of Campari, you might want to balance out the flavors with a drier vermouth and gin to get close to the flavor profile you desire.
Cappelletti has a lower alcohol content. Keep that in mind when mixing your drinks.
7. Contratto Bitter
If it’s the herbal flavors of Campari that appeal to you then you might want to try Contratto Bitter as a substitute. This Italian liquor is based on a grape brandy with infusions of 24 different herbs!
This lighter drink is often preferred over Campari as a more delicate, lower alcohol aperitif.
8. Luxardo Bitter
If you want that intense flavor to really hit your cocktail out of the park, the Luxardo, an Italian bitter will definitely please.
With similar flavors like rhubarb and bitter orange, combined with marjoram and thyme, this liquor will go well with your typical Campari cocktails, like Negroni.
The alcohol content matches too, unlike many of the other substitutes. The citrus and herb additions including gentian and wormwood suits well with your Campari cocktails.
9. Gran Classico
This highly herbal Italian bitter will hold out well as a Campari substitute as well. With 25 different herbal additives alongside the citrusy orange peel, gentian, wormwood, rhubarb, and vanilla, you’re looking at very similar compositions when it comes to flavor.
The biggest difference is the golden color compared to the bright reds of Campari. But with a match in flavors and alcohol content, that’s not much of a complaint.
10. Red amaro
Coming from the same family of Italian bitters as Campari, it makes sense that Amaro makes an excellent Campari substitute.
With matches in color, flavor, and bitterness, it’s a good bet you’ll find something you like.
11. Luna Aperitivo
While it doesn’t share the impressively bright if not artificial red as Campari, this American liquor matches in flavor easily where it doesn’t match in color.
It leans more on the bitter side compared to the sweet notes of Campari but shares the fruity notes of orange with the addition of prickly pear.
Drink it on the rocks or in a Negroni, you won’t be disappointed.
12. Faccia Brutto Aperitivo
An interesting name that’s grammatically wrong, but means ‘ugly face’, Faccia Brutto is not ugly in any way.
This aperitif sits about halfway between Campari and Aperol when it comes to sweet vs bitter. It shares similar notes of gentian and other botanicals with a hint of anise and nutty kola nut. This is all infused in a grain spirit that remains neutral when it comes to the flavor profiles.
If you aren’t looking for precise or as close as possible, this is a great option.
13. Forthave Spirits Red Aperitivo
This aperitif is infused with 13 botanicals, while not as impressive as some of the others on this list, there’s still the desired citrus notes and that perfect balance between bitter and sweet.
The florals add a more delicate flavor, but don’t think that makes it weak when it comes to cocktails. The flavors are still strong and incredibly nuanced.
14. Leopold Bros. Aperitivo
This Aperitivo made in Denver it seems was designed specifically as a Campari substitute. Using similar herbs and new ones like hyssop and Artemisia pontica, alongside cochineal to give the red flavor, a natural colorant that Campari used until 2006, it seems to take a blow to your favorite liquor.
With similar and potentially better flavor profiles without all the artificial flavors, colors, and thickeners, it might be worth a try.
15. Lockhouse Distillery Ibisco Bitter Liqueur
Hailing from Buffalo, NY, Lockhouse used Campari as an inspiration for their Ibisco Bitter without trying to copy it completely.
Using grapefruit instead of orange and coriander in corn-based alcohol, the taste is definitely different. Much like the above, they use cochineal to give the distinct natural red color without any strange flavors.
What’s the Best Campari Substitute?
While a lot of this answer comes from personal preference, the Red amaros are the closest you’ll get to actual Campari in the realm of color, flavor, and alcohol content.
If you’re looking for something you’ll easily find at the liquor store in a pinch, then the best option would be Aperol.
We hope we’ve helped you find the best Campari substitute. Whether it’s Punt e Mes or Aperol, there are plenty of options out there if you want to try something new.
We think that these two drinks are great options because they have similar flavors but are different enough from each other so that they don’t feel like clones of each other (like some other substitutes).
There are a lot of options out there. Give some a try. Maybe you’ll find something even better than your current favorite in Campari cocktails.