Last updated on November 6th, 2023
Are all your friends drinking Aperol spritz and you just can’t get on board? Consider a Campari spritz. The Campari Spritz is a fantastic, less sweet alternative to the Italian classic Spritz, made with Campari instead of Aperol.
No need to fuss about getting extra ingredients, different garnishes or changing glasses when making a Campari spritz. Simply replace the Aperol with Campari bitters in equal parts for an equally refreshing yet satisfying Italian cocktail.
In this article, I will show you exactly how to make a Campari spritz like we do here in Italy (it’s one of my favorite cocktails to make for aperitivo). I’ll take you through the basics of all things Campari, including what it tastes like, what to substitute, how to use it and how it stands up to its world famous counterpart, Aperol!
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What Is A Campari Spritz?
A Campari spritz is a ruby red prosecco based cocktail originally from Veneto made with Campari, a popular Italian bitter and a splash of soda water.
A Campari spritz is typically served in a large wine glass or balloon glass on the rocks with a garnish of thinly sliced round of orange directly into the glass.
The First Italian Spritz
The origins of the Italian spritz are difficult to identify. The word spritz in German means “a splash”, referring to the small amount of water that the Austrians added to Italian wine during the Napoleonic wars. Story goes that the Austrian soldiers didn’t think much of the Italian white wine and so they added a splash of sparkling water to make it more appealing.
Then, the Aperol spritz as we know it today was developed sometime in the 1920’s in the Veneto after the debut of Aperol at the Padua fair of 1919. Shortly after, the Campari spritz was born.
Today, Venice and Padua still feud over the origin of the first Italian spritz.
How To Pronounce Campari Spritz in Italian
Campari spritz is pronounced cahm-pah-ree spreetz in Italian.
Listen to pronunciation of Campari spritz:
What Is Campari?
Campari is part of the Italian category of alcohol known as amaro/amari or “bitters”.
Campari is the name of a trademarked alcoholic bitter with an ABV of 25%. It’s made by infusing alcohol and water with various herbs and fruit, creating a bitter flavor with a dark yet vibrant ruby red color, most commonly enjoyed as an aperitif and used to make cocktails.
Fact: The original red color of Campari came from crushing small bugs but today, artificial coloring is added and bugs are no longer part of the recipe.
Campari was invented after Aperol in 1960 by Gaspare Campari in Novare, Italy and quickly became a favorite across the peninsula. Presently, Campari is owned by Gruppo Campari, who also own Aperol.
What Is Campari Used For?
Campari in Italy is enjoyed on the rocks as an aperitivo but it’s also popular in many cocktails including:
- Negroni Sbagliato
- Mezcal Negroni
- Campari Spritz
- Campari Soda
- Boulevardier Cocktail
- Jungle Bird
Read More: Want to know more about Italian cocktails? Read our comprehensive guide to Best Italian Cocktails – 15 Popular Aperitifs We Actually Drink In Italy
What Does Campari Spritz Taste Like?
A Campari spritz is a light, bubbly cocktail that is well balanced between bitter and sweet. Campari can be described as having notes of citrusy orange with hints of clove, cinnamon, and cherry
A Campari spritz is especially good in warm weather because it’s quite refreshing and light without being overpowering or too alcoholic (when compared to other cocktails made with Campari such as a Negroni, for example).
Campari Spritz Vs Aperol Spritz
A Campari spritz is a variation to the Aperol spritz made by replacing the Aperol with Campari in equal parts.
The Campari spritz is more alcoholic and has a stronger bitter profile (Campari is 25% ABV vs Aperol which is 11% ABV). A Campari spritz is ruby red as opposed to the sunset orange color of the Aperol spritz.
Good To Know: If you order a spritz in Italy, it’s assumed it will be made with Aperol. If you would like it made with Campari, you will need to specify this by asking for a Campari Spritz.
Campari Spritz Ingredients
The Campari spritz is easy to master. Just follow the 3 – 2 -1 rule (3 ounces prosecco, 2 ounces Campari, and 1 ounce club soda), the same as an Aperol spritz
- 1 ounce (a splash) club soda (or any other unflavored sparkling water), chilled
- 2 ounces Campari
- 3 ounces prosecco, preferably dry, chilled
- Orange slice, for garnish
The bright, deep red Campari aperitif is what gives the Campari spritz its ruby red color. If you can’t get your hands on some on the Classic Italian Campari, try one of these substitutions:
- Contratto Bitters (Italy based)
- Bruto Bitters (California based)
- Luna Aperitivo (Washington D.C. based)
- Lockhouse Distillery Ibisco Bitter Liqueur (New York based)
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine similar to French Champagne. Prosecco Superiore DOC is the most expensive kind of prosecco you can buy in Italy, closer to Champagne price points.
I suggest any dry, medium-range (between 10-18 dollars) prosecco. Dry prosecco helps to balance out the Campari spritz.
Be sure the prosecco is chilled before preparing the Campari spritz to prevent the ice cubes from melting quickly.
Any kind of sparkling water will do for making a Campari spritz as long as it’s not flavored. I prefer heavily carbonated versions so I always use club soda or San Pellegrino but if you prefer less-fizzy drinks, stick to a lightly carbonated brand such as Spindrift sparkling water.
Slice of Fresh Orange
A Campari spritz is garnished with a slice of orange, usually a whole round slice. If you don’t have it, you can leave it out without compromising your Campari Spritz
How To Make An Italian Campari Spritz Cocktail
- Add plenty of ice to a large globe or wine glass. Pour in the Campari followed by the prosecco and mix well.
- Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a slice or orange (either a whole round slice or a thin half-moon shaped slice).
What Kind of Glass To Serve a Campari Spritz In
In Italy you will most always see a Campari spritz served in a large balloon or wine glass with lots of ice.
Exception: At kiosks, beach bars or at bars during after-dinner hours (past midnight), you will most likely get your Campari spritz in a tall glass or even tall plastic cup. Many bars here enact the ‘no-glass’ policy after midnight to avoid breakage when piazzas get overly crowded with late-nighters!
If you don’t have a balloon glass, opt for a large red wine.
How To Garnish an Italian Spritz
A Campari spritz should be garnished with either a whole thin slice of orange or a half moon thin slice of orange. The orange should be put directly into the glass, not on the rim of the glass.
It should not be garnished with a twist of orange.
Campari, although trademarked by Gruppo Campari and created with a secret recipe, is not only a specific product but can refer to the general flavor palette of the Campari bitter recipe.
Campari Spritz Variations
You wouldn’t believe the amount of variations there are to a Campari spritz. Here are Italy’s most beloved versions:
- Hugo Spritz – made with elderflower liqueur instead of Aperol
- Aperol Spritz – made with Campari instead of Aperol
- Pirlo – made with white wine and Campari
- Spritz Bianco – White Spitz made with still white wine instead of prosecco common of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
Reading Suggestion: Spritz – Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau is the bible when it comes to Italian Spritz. It covers life-story, various spritz recipes including tons of variations and other cocktail ideas, plus a selection of appetizer recipes to pair with your spritz.
How to Personalize A Campari Spritz
Consider adjusting the amount of Campari or soda water to increase the bitter profile or alcohol content of your Campari spritz.
Make Your Campari Spritz Less Bitter
If you find Campari a bit too bitter for your liking at first, you can add a bit less Campari and more prosecco to achieve your ideal Campari spritz cocktail.
A Lower ABV Campari Spritz
To make a lighter, less alcoholic version of the Italian spritz, simply replace a bit of the prosecco with soda water and/or decrease the Campari. For example, use 1 oz Campari, 3 oz prosecco and 2 oz soda water.
Non-Alcoholic Italian Spritz
There is no non-alcoholic Campari bitter on the market in Italy but many Italians who don’t want an alcoholic spritz opt for Crodino, also available for purchase in the US.
Crodino is a pre-mixed sweet-bitter drink with botanical flavors. Serve Crodino over ice, garnished with a slice of orange.
More Options: Check out Non-Alcoholic Italian Drinks – That We Actually Drink in Italy.
When Do Italians Drink Campari Spritz?
Italians drink spritz as a pre-dinner aperitivo most typically with a small salty bite to wet their pallet before dinner. The bitter, sweetness of a Campari spritz paired well with salty stuzzichini such as salted nuts, olives, crackers and chips.
Campari spritz are also enjoyed after dinner. In Italy, piazzas fill up with crowds of people (especially younger generations) meeting for a post-dinner drink, oftentimes some variation or type of spritz.
What to Serve With Your Italian Campari Spritz
Because the Campari spritz is a bitter cocktail, it’s best with salty, fatty snacks. Here are some of the most common nibbles you will be served alongside your spritz in Italy:
- potato chips or seasoned crackers
- small squares of focaccia
- various nuts
- cut up veggies
- taralli – italian crackers from Puglia
- pizzette – small individual pizza rounds about the size of a golf ball
Campari Spritz FAQ
Yes, you can make Campari spritz for a crowd but you will need to serve them right away because the cocktail will go flat relatively quickly.
You really cannot pre-mix a Campari spritz because of the prosecco and club soda. If you mix it ahead of time, it will go flat, which is why they are best made to order.
A Campari spritz is made of Campari bitters (2 parts) and prosecco (3 parts) with a splash of soda water (1 part).
You can absolutely use champagne to make a Campari spritz.
The most common substitute for Campari in a spritz is Aperol another Italian bitter with a lower ABV and a sweeter taste.
A spritz is made with sparkling water or club soda, Campari and prosecco. If it’s made with white wine it’s known as a Spritz bianco.
A Campari Spritz should be served in a large wine glass or balloon glass.
Campari is more alcoholic and has a stronger bitter profile (Campari is 25% ABV vs Aperol which is 11% ABV). Campari is ruby red as opposed to the sunset orange colors of the Aperol.
A Campari spritz is not the same as Aperol spritz. The prosecco and the club soda remain the same but in a Campari spritz, Campari is used while in an Aperol spritz, Aperol is used.
Yes, you can absolutely use Campari instead of Aperol in a spritz. Just substitute the Aperol with Campari in equal parts.
If you use it a lot, you don’t need to refrigerate Campari because it will last about 12 months after being opened. If you hope to keep it longer than that and have the fridge space, go ahead and refrigerate it.
Campari is wonderful on its own on the rocks or for an even lighter version with a splash of club soda for a Campari soda.