Campari, the cherry red bitter Italian aperitif liqueur lauded by bartenders equally for its cocktail versatility as well as its sipability when mixed with soda water, graces just about every respectable bartop in this country. And with its unique bittersweet, citrusy, herbal profile, Campari has dominated the market on sunset-colored aperitifs, until now.
Recently, hip Denver distillery Leopold Bros.—known for their modern interpretations of classic European spirits and liqueurs (triple sec, maraschino, fernet)—released the first Campari-esque beverage to be made stateside.
Founder Todd Leopold first tested a homemade version of Campari at his wedding in 2013, and then continued to tweak the flavor for years, until it was finally ready to be unleashed this spring.
Campari's citrusy bittersweet flavor served as a point of inspiration for Leopold Bros.' Aperitivo, which is less sweet than the original, with bitterness balanced by citrus and red fruit notes. A notable aspect of Leopold's Aperitivo is the intense aromas of artemisia pontica (an herb used in the production of absinthe and vermouth), gentian root, coriander and grapefruit peels.
While Campari once derived its red hue from cochineal, a crushed beetle, the company switched over to chemical coloring agents back in 2006. But picking up where Campari left off and sticking with all natural ingredients, Leopold Bros. does indeed use cochineal for its red. The distillery also keeps glycol and glycerin (ingredients which can create viscous or cloying liquors) out of its spirits, instead going for a lighter mouthfeel, but more pronounced flavor. Currently, Aperitivo is for sale internationally, in a few states, and online for $31.