Did Campari Get Sweeter? Plus, Campari Alternatives

by Peter Candia

Campari makes up one-third of one of the world’s hottest cocktails right now: The Negroni. Beyond the Negroni—which has full weeks dedicated to its influence—Campari is actually a much more versatile spirit than one might initially assume. Bartenders love leaning on its bitter flavor profile and glowing, red color to make statements in cocktail creations. 

Last year, Campari changed their label design for the first time ever and while some were sad to see the iconic branding change, the new label wasn’t really all that different—at least not enough to justify a boycott. However, there are people online who swear that along with the label, the recipe changed too, with many claiming that newer bottles are noticeably sweeter than the older ones.

But, is this even true? Did Campari get sweeter? 

Did Campari’s Recipe Change?

A post in r/Cocktails on Reddit reads “WHY DID THEY MAKE CAMPARI SWEET?” The poster, who goes by Smukulis, notes that two bottles they opened within the last month—one pre-label change and one post—taste different. They go on to state that the newer bottle has a thicker texture, often an indicator of more added sugar. “Do they want to get closer to Aperol and hope people will make the switch for Campari with a trained palette? Campari has such a great taste, and the new recipe is not a good change imo. Will the new recipe elevate your cocktails with the larger body/mouthfeel? Or just make Campari cocktails too sweet?” 

byu/smukulis incocktails

However, not everyone is buying this claim. One commenter states: “Campari and aperol are one brand, just FYI… So I don’t think they put two of their products in competition. On the other hand I haven’t noticed or heard that campari got sweeter.” While another exclaims that there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that the Campari formula changed at all. 

Christian Nicosia—a Brand Representative for Ghost Hawk Brewing and Campari super fan—told me that he thinks the rumors are completely bogus. “Pretty sure people are just making up stuff following the bottle change,” he says, “I had it recently in a Negroni at a spot by me and didn’t seem different whatsoever.” 

In my own testing, I pitted a bottle bought in 2022 (pre label change) to one bought this week. Rather than mixing it into a Negroni or Jungle Bird, I simply tried each neat and then with ice. I was curious to see the juxtaposition across both mediums. In both the neat variation and the rocks, I detected no discernible difference in flavor or texture. 

Campari did not respond when reached out to. 

Campari Alternatives

While it is likely that Campari did not change at all, the placebo effect of the change in branding is clearly enough to turn some people away from the bitter red Italian aperitivo. So, if you are one of those theorists, or you are just someone looking to add a new bitter to your bar cart, here are some excellent Campari Alternatives. 

Forthave Spirits Red Aperitivo


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This artisanal bitter red utilizes 13 different botanicals to create its unique and defining flavor profile. 

Buy it here.

Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro

Lo-Fi makes a few different products and they’re all excellent. The Gentian amaro is convoluted and well balanced with notes of aromatized wine and hibiscus. While it can be used as a Campari alternative, I find it best when mixed along with the bitter red—creating an entirely new amaro in the process. 

Buy it here.

Tempus Fugit Gran Classico

25 botanicals make up this incredibly complex bitter, which is a glowing burnt orange in color. With a slightly higher ABV than Campari, you can elevate your Negroni in more ways than one.

Buy it here.

Faccia Brutto Aperitivo

This Brooklyn-based spirits brand offers several defining bottles in their lineup, including one aimed at replacing Campari. The spirit is infused with botanicals such as gentian, star anise, and kola nut to create a balanced spirit that’s not too sweet or bitter. Good straight, or as a replacement for Campari in a slew of cocktails.

Buy it here.

Alternative Negroni Recipe

My preferred Negroni doesn’t replace Campari at all, but it does add another spirit to the party. By adding Lo-Fi Gentian amaro to a Negroni, you make a slightly more bitter offering that is infused with hundreds of complex subtleties. But, it’s all in the ratios.

  • 1 oz Tanqueray London Dry Gin
  • 1 oz Campari 
  • ½ oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
  • ½ oz Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 20 seconds and strain over fresh ice. Express an orange or grapefruit twist and garnish your cocktail. 

About the Author/s

All posts

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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