Welcome to "That One Drink," Your New Favorite Beverage Column

This week: The one cocktail you can always turn to.
Publish date:
February 5, 2016
alcohol, cocktails, That One Drink, Campari, Campari & Soda, Cocktail Recipes

Hello, hello, and welcome. Welcome to xoJane's brand spanking new beverage column, "That One Drink," the place where we get together every Friday evening and talk about alcohol while drinking alcohol.

Let me emphasize that this is a very chill affair. I want this to be a snob-free zone, and there is to be no talk of "girly" drinks, because the gendering of beverages is a real pet peeve of mine. Descriptors like "fruity," "sweet," "bold," and "aggressive" are all fine, but let's stay away from "girly," "manly," and the like.

Like Recipe of the Week, this will be community driven. Unlike Recipe of the Week, I'll start each article with a recipe, review, or recommendation of my own, and then share a little bit about what that particular ethanolic beverage means to me. You'll then share whatever drink fits the theme, and then vote on each other's beverage recs. I'll try the winner out the next week, give you a new topic (and recommendation), and we'll do it all over again.

Oh, and I'm going to switch up the trophies too. I hope you don't mind.

To kick things off, I'm starting from a very personal place. This week's topic is That One Cocktail You Can Always Turn To, and that for me is the classic Campari & Soda.

Campari is admittedly an acquired taste, and if you never acquire it, that's fine, but I urge you to give it a few tries. I first had Campari in an Italian Greyhound (gin+Campari+grapefruit juice) and I loved the bitter-sweet flavor it brought to the cocktail.

At first, I could only handle little splashes of it in a beverage; it was an accent flavor, not the star. But, with time, I began to crave the bitter, herbaceous punch it lent. Eventually, I quit with the grapefruit altogether, and began sipping Campari with nothing more than a bit of soda water.

Before we get to mixing, let's talk a bit about what Campari actually is. First of all, it's an Italian aperitif, which means that it's traditionally served before a meal, to stimulate the appetite. It's also a liqueur, infused with herbs and citrus fruit, and has an ABV of 24% in the United States. The flavor is quite unique, and is best described as bittersweet, but mostly bitter, quite herbaceous, with notes of citrus. It used to be colored with beetles, but now it's not.

I'm only being a little dramatic when I say I can't exist without a bottle of it in my home. A Campari & Soda is great before dinner, sure, but it's also good during a meal, after a meal (the bitterness helps settle the stomach), and in the bathtub. It's also fairly low alcohol, in terms of cocktails, so you can enjoy them a bit longer than, say, a martini. Incidentally, I have never been hungover after an evening of only Campari & Sodas.

It's also almost always stocked in any given bar. If I'm not happy with the beer, wine, or gin selection, or if I'm not confident I'll get a properly stirred, not shaken martini, a Campari & Soda is usually a safe bet. (Plus, they're usually on the cheaper side.)

I'll give you the "official" ratios, but I never measure. I just pour the amount that feels right, and top with soda water. Sometimes I even drink it out of a mug, because I am not fancy.

Classic Campari & Soda

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Special Equipment: None
  • Glassware: Lowball, or whatever, man.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 ounces Campari
  • 3 ounces soda water
  • citrus slice or zest of your choice

Put some ice in a lowball. If you're using the exact ratios above and want to save yourself a little time, add your soda water first, then your Campari. Campari is much heavier than soda, so it mixes itself in this order.

If you're me, just glug in some bright red goodness, top with grapefruit La Croix, and stir with your finger.

In terms of citrus, an orange slice is recommended, but I like a piece of lemon zest. Squeeze the zest into the glass so all that tasty oil gets in there, and run the zest along the rim of the glass. There's also nothing wrong with squeezing in a bit of fresh juice. I'm pretty into mandarinquats right now.

A Word on Soda Water

If there is one other thing I can't exist without, it's La Croix, but their "plain" isn't my favorite unadorned soda water. For that, I turn to Gerolsteiner, which is technically a mineral water, but I like the aggressive fizziness and somewhat bracing minerality. Usually though, I'm just splashing in grapefruit La Croix, because it's what I have and the citrus pairs well in this case. (Word to the wise: the coconut flavor does not.)

But honestly, as long as it's fizzy, and plays well with bitter orange, any sparkling water will do the trick, and I encourage you to follow your tongue.

So that's my go-to, never-fail, must-have-in-the-house cocktail. Tell me yours, and while you're in the comments, feel free to suggest future topics. Salute belle!