5 Best Campari Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Campari substitutes are a staple behind any professional bar, since this key ingredient may not always be available. Campari is a great addition to home liquor cabinets, but if you don’t have any on hand, there are some excellent substitutes to make your cocktails work.

Campari is a dark red liqueur classified as an ‘aperitif’, meaning that it is intended to be drunk before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It is made by infusing citrus and bitter herbs in alcohol and is one of a group of spirits called ‘bitters’. Campari is the trademark name of the spirit that originated in Italy and is made from its own recipe. Classic cocktails that feature Campari are the Negroni, Boulevardier, and Americano. Campari is featured in many craft cocktails and can balance the sweetness of juices or syrups.

Campari Substitutes

There are many types of bitters, aperitifs, and digestifs in the world, so if you don’t have a bottle of Campari in your home bar, try substitutes like Aperol, Fernet Branca, luxardo bitter, cynar, and other homemade bitters for a new flavor experience.

A close up picture of a glass of Campari

Campari is the bright red Italian bitter alcoholic drink. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Aperol

This Italian aperitif is Campari’s closest cousin in terms of taste. Its red coloring comes from rhubarb and other bitter herbs. Aperol is sweeter and slightly less bitter than Campari and has a much lower alcohol content.

Fernet Branca

There are many brands of fernet, but Fernet Branca is the most popular in the United States. It is dark red, herbaceous, and minty. It holds up to being shaken with citrus or stirred with overproof liquors.

Luxardo Bitter or Maraschino Liqueur

The Italian Luxardo brand produces several excellent aperitifs. Luxardo Bitter is bright cherry red in color and is an attractive and delicious substitute for Campari. Luxardo Maraschino is clear, herbal, sweet, and a bit funky. Both mix perfectly with gin, whiskey, sparkling wine and many others.

Cynar

As the use of bitters becomes more popular in the US, people have gravitated toward less sweet varieties. Cynar is unique because it is made with artichokes. This gives the bitters an earthy, funky quality, making it an excellent replacement in a Negroni or Boulevardier.

Homemade Bitters

For the very adventurous drinkers, you can even make your own bitters by infusing herbs in vodka. Choose aromas like clove, orange peel, and anise, or even cocoa, cayenne, and vanilla. When steeped properly, you can create an aromatic alcohol and enjoy a one-of-a-kind cocktail.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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