Campari is best known for its use in the classic Negroni, a drink featuring equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and the bitter Italian liqueur. But given its distinctive flavor, bright-red color and modest proof (24% ABV), Campari is a workhorse ingredient that shines in a variety of cocktails, or beer-tails, as seen in the Ruby Hearts.
“Campari is very versatile: Fruit, spices and herbs are good enhancers,” says bartender Melissa Romanos. She cites citrus, pineapple, berries, basil, thyme and baking spices as having particularly good affinity. “Campari lends itself to sours, beer cocktails and Tiki-style drinks.” The important consideration is combining the proper ratio of ingredients.
“The best way to overcome any misconception toward a particular spirit is by showcasing [it] in a way that highlights its best qualities and perhaps downplays those qualities people may not find friendly,” adds Romanos.
The Ruby Hearts is a most unexpected cocktail. In addition to Campari, it features mezcal, cinnamon-demerara syrup, lime juice and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an American-style IPA from Michigan.
“Two bitters don’t make an extra bitter,” says Romanos, who created the Ruby Hearts while working at The Publican in Chicago. “The grassy, smoky notes in Unión mezcal and the richness of the cinnamon demerara provide just enough balance to the bitterness in both the ale and the Campari.”
- 1 1/2 ounces Union mezcal
- 1/2 ounce Campari
- 3/4 ounce cinnamon-demerara syrup*
- 3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 4 ounces Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
- Garnish: cinnamon stick
Add the mezcal, Campari, cinnamon-demerara syrup and lime juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.
Top with the beer and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
*Cinnamon-demerara syrup: Add 1 cup demerara sugar and 1 cup water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove syrup from heat, add 6 cinnamon sticks and steep for an hour or until desired flavor is achieved. Remove cinnamon sticks and store syrup, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a month.