When making a cocktail at home, there are plenty of great options for a Campari substitute. Campari is a type of amaro, or Italian bitter. If you don’t have Campari on hand, many other kinds of red or orange amaros can provide similar flavors and will work well as a Campari alternative.
Campari is intended as an aperitif, or a before-dinner drink. Part of the amaro family of Italian bitters, Campari comes in a deep red color and has bittersweet spiced flavors. Some of the flavors that stand out in Campari include orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon.
While plenty of other Italian bitters and similar liqueurs can be used as a Campari replacement, they each have their own unique flavor that will be slightly different from Campari.
With that in mind, we have put together a list of the best Campari substitutes, making a note of each liqueur’s particular flavor profile.
Top 5 Recommended Campari Substitutes
Here are the best choices to turn to when you don’t have Campari available:
You can’t have a list of Campari substitutes without including one of the most obvious options, Aperol. Aperol is also an Italian bitter, but it distinguishes itself from Campari with its bright orange color and sweeter flavors.
Aperol is easily found in most liquor stores, making it a good campari alternative when in a pinch. It’s an Italian bitter in the amaro family and has similar notes of spice and orange, so it will likely go well with the rest of the original ingredients of your campari cocktail.
Suppose you are planning on using Aperol as a Campari substitute. In that case, it’s helpful to remember the two major differences between these Italian bitters: Aperol is notably sweeter than Campari, and it also has lower alcohol content.
When using Aperol as a substitute, be mindful of the sweeter flavors and consider experimenting with switching up some of the other cocktail ingredients to balance out the change in flavor.
And if you want to let the Aperol substitute lead the way, you could even try switching up your cocktail plan entirely and make an Aperol Spritz. As opposed to a Negroni, a classic Campari cocktail that embraces the bitter flavors of Campari and contains a hefty amount of alcohol, an Aperol Spritz is a light and refreshing aperitif.
2. Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso
This wine-based Italian bitter is a rich and fruity liqueur that can easily be used as a Campari alternative. Cappelletti can be used in variations on both the Aperol Spritz or the Negroni, depending on preference.
Since this bitter is based on wine, it is lighter and has a more robust fruit flavor than Campari. If you plan on making a Negroni with Cappelletti, try to get a drier vermouth and gin that doesn’t have as strong a juniper taste—these changes will best complement the Cappelletti flavor profile.
Similar to Aperol, this Campari substitute has a much lower alcohol content, which can inform your decision-making when mixing drinks and allows you to drink Cappelletti alone over ice. In fact, Cappelletti’s sweeter flavor and light body set it apart from other Italian bitters as a beverage that can be drunk solo.
3. Contratto Bitter
Contratto Bitter is an excellent option for a Campari substitute if you’re looking to match the herbal complexity of Campari. This Italian bitter is made with a grape brandy base and has a rich taste infused with a multitude of botanical flavors—a grand total of 24 herbs.
For many cocktail aficionados, Contratto Bitter or Contratto Aperitif is actually a preferable option to Campari. Contratto is more complex in flavor and feels lighter than its Campari counterpart. As an added benefit, the lower alcohol content (usually around 13.5 percent alcohol) makes it a more appropriate aperitif beverage, especially if you don’t want to be feeling drowsy by the main course.
If you want to use Contratto as a Campari alternative, consider a few cocktail options. Like most amaros, you can easily use Contratto to do a new twist on a classic Aperol Spritz or Negroni. Make a refreshing beverage by mixing Contratto with club soda and pouring over ice for an even more simple option.
4. Luxardo Bitter
Luxardo Bitter is an intensely flavored Italian bitter that can easily hold its own as a Campari substitute in a Negroni. Its flavor profile includes rhubarb, bitter orange, marjoram, and thyme, making it a flavorful liqueur that will go well with the standard Negroni ingredients of sweet vermouth and gin.
Proceed with caution when using this as a substitute, because unlike many of the Campari alternatives included on this list, the Luxardo brand of amaro has an alcohol content of 25 percent. This is actually one percent higher than the alcohol content in Campari.
The citrus and herbal aromas—as well as the distinctive wormwood and gentrian flavors—makes this an excellent option not only for Negronis but Spritzes and Americanos as well. As a simpler alternative, try it over ice or mixed in with some club soda.
It is also worth mentioning that a Luxardo Bitter Bianco is quite popular amongst amaro fans. Luxardo Bitter Bianco is a wonderful choice if you want to make a Negroni Bianco, which is not quite as dry or bitter as a traditional Negroni, and has a slightly creamier flavor.
5. Gran Classico
For another flavorful Italian bitter that will stand out in a Negroni, consider Gran Classico. Made with 25 different herbal infusions, its unique flavors include orange peel, gentian, wormwood, rhubarb, and vanilla.
Displaying a natural golden color, Gran Classico has no added dyes and has a robust enough flavor to be a stand-alone beverage or the main attraction in a sophisticated cocktail. Similar to Luxardo, this Campari substitute has a higher alcohol content, coming in at 28 percent alcohol. With that in mind, definitely be careful and precise when measuring out Gran Classico for a cocktail, especially when intending to drink it as an aperitif.
Gran Classico has the sweetness of Aperol but the lingering bitterness of Campari, making it a happy medium between the two and a fantastic Campari substitute. Gran Classico can be used in most aperitifs requiring amaros, such as Negronis, Spritzes, Americanos, gin cocktails, and many more.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about Campari, you are not alone. Check out the FAQ below:
Technically, no. If a Negroni is made with a red amaro other than Campari, you are making a unique twist or new variation on a Negroni. For instance, a Negroni made with Luxardo Bitter Bianco would be called a Negroni Bianco.
Needing to make a substitution in a cocktail is an excellent opportunity to experiment with new flavors and recipes, and you’ll probably discover a new favorite drink along the way. So if you find yourself in need of a Campari alternative, embrace the chance to explore the delicious world of Italian bitters.
Yes! The Campari brand produces a non-alcoholic bitter aperitif called Crodino, which has citrus and bittersweet flavors that mirror the classic flavor profile of Campari.
So if you want a tasty non-alcoholic Negroni, or a stand-alone refresher before dinner, going on the hunt for a bottle of Crodino is definitely an option.
Suppose you are alright with having a small quantity of alcohol in your beverage. In that case, an at-home substitute for non-alcoholic bitters can be made by mixing a few drops of your preferred Italian bitter with a fruit juice like pomegranate. This creates the bitter and citrus flavors with significantly less alcohol.
For a less bitter Campari substitute, you can’t go wrong with Aperol, which switches out the bitterness of Campari with the sweetness of a more robust orange flavor.
If you don’t have Aperol on hand or simply want to stick to the distinct flavor profile of Campari, try topping off your cocktail with some club soda to tone down the taste.
Yes, you can drink Campari straight. It has an excellent flavor profile, and many people enjoy it neat or over ice. However, many people find the Campari flavor too strong or bitter, so if you want to experiment with drinking Italian bitters straight, you may want to start out with one that has a sweeter flavor.
For drinking the liqueur alone, consider Cappelletti or Aperol, which both have fruitier flavors and lower alcohol content.
For some cocktails, yes. It’s very bitter compared to regular bitters and also has a distinctive sweetness, so you’ll want to make sure it matches the other flavors included in your cocktail.
Using Campari as a bitters substitute in an Old Fashioned is a trendy choice since the cocktail already has citrus flavors in it.
When lacking Campari, Aperol or any other similar brand. I have successfully added dry vermouth plus 3 or 4 dashes Angostura bitters. Then blend these with the sweet vermouth and the gin. it works – kind of!