Homemade Campari

Campari is an herbaceous, bittersweet Italian liqueur that took the 1860s by storm and whose popularity continues today. Campari gives the Negroni its bouquet of orange and grapefruit, and plenty of other drinks their elan vital.

Make your own with this easy recipe. Keep the bottle for your own home bar, or generously give it away as a gift.


Campari is a blend of between ten and seventy herbs, flowers, and roots infused into a high-proof alcohol and sweetened with sugar syrup. The Campari you find on store shelves is still made outside Milan, Italy according to Gaspare Campari’s original 1860 recipe.

While their recipe is a closely held secret – it’s said that outside of the factory director, not a soul knows all of the herbs included – gentian, oranges, rhubarb, and ginseng will get you in the vicinity. The rest of the ingredients simply help add more body, complexity, and brightness to the liquor.


Why make your own Campari? Aside from being able to customize the sweetness, bitterness, citrus, and proof of your Campari, there is the affordability: for the cost of a single bottle of store-bought Campari and a scant amount of time, you could easily make 5 half-bottles (375ml) of your own.

Making homemade Campari also requires just 20 minutes of hands-on time: Order your ingredients online, and once they arrive, all you need to do is infuse, strain, and you’re good to go with one of the most desired liqueurs in the world. It’s beautiful.

A round tray with spices, herbs and oranges set around it to make Campari.

A round tray with spices, herbs and oranges set around it to make Campari.


Your ingredients fall into a few categories:

  • BITTERING AGENTS: These that do just that: contribute the bitter complexity that stimulates the appetite and adds shape to sweetness. Gentian, the main source of our bitterness here, gives a radiating, resonant and tangy bitterness. Wild Cherry Bark is more balanced in its bitterness, and introduces some fruit tastes. Angelica root introduces a bold, grapefruit and pepper tone, while ginseng brings a more clean, earthy bite. Wormwood, more famous for its association with absinthe, includes just a hint of anise or sweet licorice with its intense bitterness.
  • FLAVORING BOTANICALS: These add depth and layers of complexity, and they contribute to a more flavorful experience overall. Our (dried) lemon peel, orange peel, and rhubarb root bring style to the overall taste. (Note: this is dried rhubarb root, different from fresh rhubarb stalks available in grocery stores.)
  • COLOR: As for that bright red color associated with Campari? Until recently this color came from dried cochineal beetles, though today it’s produced using artificial coloring. What a world! Carmine or beetles are still available for your recipe, but you may also go with red food coloring for an easier time of it.
  • SWEETNESS: Campari is a surprisingly sweet liqueur that just happens to be so bitter that you’d never noticed. If you are careful enough in adding a rich simple syrup to your water volume, you can even match the brix value (or sweetness) of store-bought Campari, but easier still is adjusting to your own tastes.


You can order all of your ingredients from the following online stores:

Two mason jars filled with ingredients for campari.

Two mason jars filled with ingredients for campari.


You need but one alcohol to make your own Campari: An extremely high-proof neutral grain spirit.

Galen’s 151 and Everclear Grain Alcohol 151 are ever-reliable options, and fairly widely available. While you can certainly try out darker spirits, the neutral grain spirits allow the flavors to develop more fully and better stand out.

150 proof or higher is definitely recommended. The higher alcohol content will more effectively and quickly draw out the flavor from those ingredients – but you could go as low as 100 proof before you would see the alcohol failing to extract the flavor you so critically need.


The liberating pleasure here is in just how simple it can be to make your own Campari.

  1. Begin by combining the dry ingredients with your high-proof spirit. Seal the jar and shake. Set aside for 14 – 21 days, shaking once each day. The mixture is ready anytime within this time period. The color will slowly turn brown, and the taste will be so bitter as to be undrinkable. Don’t worry, all is well.
  2. After that steeping, strain the mixture using a sieve, then filter through cheesecloth, coffee filter, or a mesh superbag. The bitter, high-alcohol base that results is the heart of your Campari, and needs only a bit of sweetness, and some water to bring down the proof.
  3. To match the 28.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of Italian Campari, we’ll need to “water down” that alcohol some. And to match the sweetness, we’ll need to introduce some sugar. You can do both at once by bringing 4 cups of water to a simmer in a saucepan and stirring in sugar. After it has fully dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool.
  4. When your syrup has cooled, slowly stir it into the bitter, infused alcohol. You will likely need all of it, but once you have added half, taste it frequently, and choose your own stopping point. Hint: It should taste great.
  5. If you are put off by the color, and/or simply want it to resemble the Campari to which you’ve grown so accustomed, add red food coloring until it settles at that bright, rosy hue you recognize.

Glass jar filled with Campari substitute. A whiskey glass with a cocktail inside is to the right.

Glass jar filled with Campari substitute. A whiskey glass with a cocktail inside is to the right.


When it comes to storing your Campari, so long as you are storing these out of direct sunlight, you can get by with any clear glass bottle or jar. That said, darker bottles do a better job of preventing light from gradually causing oxidization and evaporation. It may take months or even well over a year to notice a change, but you don’t have any other concerns outside of that.

Your best bet would be to find something that seems easy to use and enjoyable to look at. The rest will work out.

For more bespoke bottles, Crate and Barrel has decanters that are what you once imagined your adulthood would look like, while Specialty Bottle has a nearly endless selection of jars and bottles. This recipe will yield five 375ml bottles – perfect for giving away four as gifts, and saving one for yourself.


If you’re looking for inspiration, there are a small number of core cocktails to turn to first:

  • Americano: The mother of the Negroni, the Americano is a simple but most-refreshing blend of 1oz Campari and 1oz sweet vermouth, topped with soda water.
  • Negroni: Evolved from the Americano, the Negroni is the flagship cocktail of Campari, typically an equal parts mix of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
  • Boulevardier: The Negroni, this time with bourbon filling in for gin.
  • Old Pal: A Boulevardier, but with a drier, spicier rye substituting for bourbon.
  • Old Friend: Further afield than the above, this is a bright, beautiful blend of gin, grapefruit juice, Campari, and St Germain elderflower liqueur.

A person holding two glass jars with homemade campari inside.

A person holding two glass jars with homemade campari inside.


Your bottle of Campari will never truly go bad if kept in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight. If you are storing half-empty bottles in the light for over a year, you may notice changes owing to oxidization and an eventual evaporation, but I’m confident you will have consumed your homemade Campari long before then.

As for temperature, Campari is high-enough proof that you needn’t refrigerate it, but know that warmer temperatures will make it come across as sweeter. That one comes down to preference!