We all love Aperol, but what about the Campari Spritz?
While writing this blog, many inspirational people come to mind - people who've gone against the grain to follow their passions, who from humble beginnings have created global success. Think chocolatier Luisa Spagnoli with her ardent love messages in Umbria blooming into the famous Italian Baci di Perugina, then, barman Roland Gruber who created something similar to the Venetian spritz in his small bar near Bolzano - the aromatic 'Spritz Hugo', now famous world-wide.
Today, we're featuring young Gasparo Campari, born to a family of farmers but with a passion for mixology.
The spritz itself starts in north-east Italy where Austrians visiting Veneto osterie would 'spritz' their glasses of strong white wine with water to render them more palatable. 100 years later and we're adding a hint of colour and using soda or seltzer. But before Prosecco appears on the scene, over in Milano Mr Gasparo Campari has become the most popular drinks mixer in town.
Gasparo grows up on farmland near Milan, then moves to Turin to further his studies. He conjures up a couple of avantgarde drinks and opens a bar - il Caffè dell’Amicizia in the town of Novara. Amongst his creations, including the 'Elixir of Long Life' and the 'Pink Liqueur', is his 'Bitter, as used in Holland'.
This ruby-red, bittersweet elixir of fruits, plants and herbs becomes fondly known as the 'Bitter of Mr Campari' but soon shortens to 'Bitter Campari' and is soon recognised all over Torino as the perfect 'aperitivo'.
Gasparo chooses Italy's hub of finance and fashion and moves to Milano in 1862 opening 'Caffè Campari' inside the central Coperto dei Figini - a covered collection of shops and historic bars. 4 years later Gasparo's bar is demolished to make way for the decadent town-centre development - the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery whose completion takes longer than planned. Finally, after 11 years of waiting, the spectacular gallery is unveiled with new shops galore and a little space reserved for Gasparo's caffè.
The man sadly dies only 4 years after his iconic bar opens but we can assume he passes with a contented smile, having come from farmlands to central Milan in celebrated style. He'd smile now too, watching his old elixir continue to grow into an international empire..
After his father's death, Davide Campari pursues his passion and opens Caffè Camparino just across from Caffe Campari, but this time more sumptuous than ever. In line with the Gallery's Nouveau decor, Caffè Camparino has two floors of the finest details - the bar is moulded by Eugenio Quarti, the chandelier by Alessandro Mazzucotelli with luxurious mosaics and state-of-the-art refrigerated, sparkling water piped from the cellars for a perfectly bubbly Campari Soda. And here explodes Campari's fame because the individual, conical glass bottle designed by Fortunato Depero takes Milan and the rest of Italy by storm. Classy and trendy, Camparino becomes the seat of stars and artists while designers jump onto the band-wagon with iconic art-work and Campari Soda flies off into the sunset.
Next time you are in Milan, step into Camparino for old--world finery and Campari Soda served as it was back in 1915. Same glasses, same classic style. And here, (and anywhere in Italy) feel free to order a Campari Spritz - served with Prosecco, soda and a slice of lemon.
Aperol has been marketed abroad as 'The Spritz' but in Italy more and more of us savour a Campari Spritz, made similarly, but with Gasparo's bitter elixir. Less Campari is used in an Italian spritz, compared to Aperol. There's no fixed recipe but it's more or less: 1 part Campari to 2 parts soda and 2 parts Prosecco with a slice of lemon, not orange.
Interestingly, you'll find a whole range of Bitter Sisters like Select and Cynar, potentially blended with soda and prosecco as an aperitivo before lunch or dinner served with a couple of quintessential snacks along the bustling streets of Italy during Aperitivo Time.
We've decided to bring an 'Aperitivo Culture' with Aperol and Campari Spritz, served the Italian way, snacks like focaccia, bruschetta, taralli and Italian olives - all part of the 'Spritz Experience'. Look out for 'Aperitivo Time' at local festivals and events - see our page for details and come say, 'Ciao!' We'll pour you a Campari Spritz 'Gasparo Style' and together we'll toast to a him, a man who never gave up on his dream,
'Here's to you, Gasparo - cin cin.'