When mixing classic cocktails at home and lacking Campari, there are several excellent Campari substitutes to consider. Campari falls into the category of amaro, which is an Italian bitter liqueur. To replace it, you can use several other (red) amaros that offer similar flavors and serve as a great Campari alternative in your drinks.
For people new to Campari the pronounced bitterness of the red aperitif is often overwhelming. Even in comparison with other Amari, the deep red bitter is heavily on the bitter side. If you're looking for an excellent substitute for the Campari that's something you should consider. Other prominent flavors that stand out in the liqueur are orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices.
If you plan to drink it neat, Leopold Bros. Aperitivo is the best alternative to Campari. In mixed drinks, Contratto Bitter and Tempus Fugit's Gran Classico are both excellent replacements for Campari.
As all similar Italian bitters have unique flavors and features, they're all slightly different from Campari - Each in its own way. For a better overview of the different substitutes, here's a detailed look at the best ways to replace the red bitter liqueur.
8 Best Substitutes for Campari
These are the best options to choose when you don’t have Campari at hand:
1. Contratto Bitter
Contratto bitter is a red aperitivo liqueur that contains 22% alcohol and comes in a fancy bottle with a striking label design. Due to the lower alcohol content, the red bitter is lighter on the palate compared to Campari but has a similar mouthfeel.
Made from an Italian brandy base infused with 24 herbal ingredients, the flavor profile is less bitter and more herbaceous. The distinctive red color comes from all-natural colorings like beet extracts and carrots.
Paired with Gin and Vermouth, Contratto creates a rich and balanced Negroni with an overall sweeter taste.
2. Tempus Fugit Gran Classico
Gran Classico is a bitter aperitivo with an intense herbal flavor profile, sweet taste, and pronounced bitterness.
Some even say Gran Classico is not only a great Campari alternative but makes a better Negroni than red bitter from Milan. The reason is that Gran Classico has a similar level of complexity and brings beautiful nuances to the drink without overpowering the other ingredients. It also has a thicker and richer mouthfeel improving the texture.
3. Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano
Cappelletti is another common substitute for Campari. This one, however, is less of a direct replacement and more like an option to create exciting variations of drinks.
The liqueur is wine-based, thus, thinner, less viscous, fruitier, and far less bitter than Campari. In a Negroni, you want to pair it with a drier Vermouth and a softer, less junipery Gin like Hendricks, Monkey 47, or Ferdinand Saar.
4. Luxardo Bitter (Rosso)
The brand Luxardo is best known for its famed Maraschino liqueur. But this bitter liqueur is an excellent product as well. Luxardo bitter is a popular Campari substitute if Gran Classico is too sweet for your taste buds.
The red, bitter aperitif with pronounced bitter orange, thyme, marjoram, and rhubarb notes is a well-balanced middle ground between overly bitter (Campari) and sweet (Gran Classico). It's bold enough to be paired with juniper-heavy Gins yet won't overpower more subtle ones.
The alcohol content is also very similar, making this liqueur an excellent alternative in classic Campari cocktails like the Negroni (Campari, gin, vermouth), Americano (Campari, vermouth, soda water), and Spritzes.
5. Leopold Bros. Aperitivo
Of all substitutes for Campari in this list, Leopold Bros Aperitivo is the closest when it comes to the actual flavor profile. The Denver-based company first released its red Aperitivo in 2015, and it feels like the intention was to pair it with Gin and Sweet Vermouth.
The recipe includes herbs like wormwood (artemisia pontica), gentian root, grapefruit peels, hyssop, coriander, and grapefruit peels. The aperitif is sweetened with cane sugar and uses South American cochineal insects for color giving this a shout-out to traditional Campari.
In cocktails and other mixed drinks, this bitter is an excellent alternative. On the rocks, it tastes just different enough to be perceived as a product in its own right. However, the flavor here is not complex and intense enough to keep up with most other options.
Rinomato is an Aperitivo liqueur with a bittersweet and herbal taste. Flavor-wise it is somewhere between Campari and Aperol. It has the typical striking red hue and a milder but still complex and strikingly bitter flavor profile.
But compared to Campari, Rinomato is lighter and more refreshing, with a citrus-forward palate that reminds me of Aperol. This distinct combination makes it an ideal Campari alternative in a Negroni and works well in the Aperol Spritz.
Cynar, known as "Chee-Nahr," is a renowned Italian amaro liqueur crafted from artichoke leaves and a blend of 12 herbs and spices. This iconic spirit boasts a bittersweet profile with herbal and vegetal notes, making it an excellent choice for Spritz cocktails.
Launched in 1952, Cynar holds an alcohol content of 16.5%, distinguishing it as a lighter amaro option. Its unique flavor stems from the inclusion of artichoke leaves in the original recipe, providing both a vegetal taste and enhancing sweetness.
Cynar's versatility and distinct taste have earned its popularity among mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts. With its sweeter and less bitter nature compared to other amaros, Cynar serves as a wonderful substitute for Campari in various cocktails.
8. Faccia Brutto Aperitivo
Faccia Brutto Aperitivo is a compelling alternative to Campari, offering a distinct and balanced flavor profile. Crafted by Faccia Brutto Spirits in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, this aperitivo stands out for its captivating taste experience.
Falling between the sweetness of Aperol and the bitterness of Campari, it boasts a cherry red hue that hints at its vibrant character. The liqueur's intricate flavor notes, including orange, cinnamon, and rhubarb, are best savored through slow sips.
This aperitivo echoes the essence of coastal relaxation, making it suitable for both Spritz and Negroni cocktails.
What is the best non-alcoholic Campari substitute?
Lyre's Non-alcoholic Italian Orange serves as an ideal alcohol-free alternative and one of the best no-alcohol Campari substitutes. With its vibrant citrus profile, featuring blood orange and tart cherry notes, Lyre's offers a versatile option for crafting low and no-alcohol cocktails.
This spirit effectively captures the essence of traditional aperitifs, providing a balanced blend of sweetness and bitterness.
Besides, there are Crodino and Sanbitter, two Italian products that work great in alcohol-free Negronis or Spritzes. Crodino, a widely favored alcohol-free bitter aperitif in Italy and Europe, captures attention with its herbal essence and a touch of sweetness. Created by the Campari group, it mirrors the style of Aperol and Campari but without the alcohol content.
Sanbitter has a very similar flavor profile to Crodino and is produced by San Pellegrino, the famous producer of Italian soda water.
Can you make a Negroni without Campari?
Sure, you can. All alternatives we mention in this article work as Campari substitutes in a Negroni. Some work better, some worse. The myth, that a Negroni can only be made with Campari, comes from the fact that many bartenders experiment with gin and vermouth but remain loyal to Campari.
However, your Campari as the heart of the cocktail can be replaced by an amaro with similar taste and properties.
What are the main flavors in Campari?
The bitter flavor of Campari is its main attribute. The flavors of bitter orange peels and bitter herbal ingredients reveal a complex array of flavors upon tasting. Amidst the persistent bitterness, there emerges a delightful interplay of sweet cherry and sweet orange notes, accompanied by a subtle spiciness akin to cinnamon.
The sweetness gradually expands, yet the bitter foundation remains ever-present. The aftertaste reverts to pure bitterness, especially when consumed before a meal. This unique taste profile can gradually become appealing.