There are few things in life that haven’t been memorialized by Google. Homemade Campari seems to be one of them.
I happen to love Campari and so, like everything else, I wanted to make my own.
There is a short string here on Chowhound boards. Save the trouble clicking, no one has mastered it. The New York Times D.I.Y. Cooking Handbook has a orange wine thing that they claim is a bit of a homemade Campari. It is OK, it is not homemade Campari. It is a homemade wine cooler, which is serviceable in its own right and makes you think Bartles & Jaymes at least started with a decent idea.
The most instructive is a Savuer post that hints at some core ingredients — alcohol, sugar syrup, distilled water, orange (likely bitter Sevilles), rhubarb, ginsing. And there are a mysterious number of mysterious herbs. The post goes on to describe the making:
Its dry ingredients are soaked in water for two days, mixed with alcohol and more water, and steeped in huge vats for 15 days. The color of the brew at the end of this period is brown, and the taste is bitter—really bitter, as in undrinkable. The liquid is then drained off into blending tanks and the macerated dregs are pressed for more juice, like a tea bag; the soggy remains are boiled to distill more alcohol. Finally, the sweetening syrup and the coloring—from cochineal dye (a commonly used colorant made from the dried bodies of cochineal insects)—are added.
This is what I did:
Make the requisite wine cooler from the New York Times, sorta following the recipe in the best way I know, which is to get the gist and then move on.
I then took rhubarb syrup I made last Spring and heated it. To that I added a pile of fresh grated ginsing, fresh ginger root slices, cardamom, pepper, two star anise mostly intact, some broken cinnamon stick bits and removed from the heat. I left it to sit at room temperature two days. Then I dumped it into the New York Times wine cooler.
It was pretty good with setzler.
But since this was the first go, I decided to do some more research and found this post.
Although the recipe indicates that you add it all into the alcohol, macerate and filter, when I first made homemade root beer, I discovered that no beverage with strange roots should ever be made by dumping it all together and then waiting to taste the results.
Homemade root beer often contains Spikenard Root, which really must be the worst flavor known to man. Having not actually tasted angelica root, gentian or calamus root on their own, I opted to macerate each on its own and blend the result.
So, I had a few jars working: orange peel, cinnamon, aniseed and cloves in one, with 350 ml alcohol. Then, angelica root in 50 ml alcohol, gentian root in 100ml and calamus root in 100 ml. I likely could have done the math to really get scientific but clearly that would have been out of character.
After 10 days, I tasted each and then decided to strain the gentian root and leave the angelica and calamus root to macerate another 10 days. Then I filtered, dumped in the extra alcohol and red wine and I’m not letting it sit downstairs.
I tasted it, and while I am quite sure it is going to evolve over time, I think it needs more orange, possibly whole dried oranges or may a mix of orange, lemon and lime that somehow attempts to approximate the bitter Sevilles. I also think I am going to add back in that rhubarb. So, I bought a bunch at the market, turned it into juice and put it in the freezer for whenever I get around to making my next batch.
Angelica root has some sort of ancient secret power to ward off pestilence, though I am not sure if the ancients were pestilented by the Stink Bug so if that is your pestilence, I can’t guarantee that drowning yourself in homemade campari will be a solution.
Gentian root is used in a lot of specialty cocktail condiments these days, specifically in bitters. So if you are going to get into homemade booze, it is a good purchase at a pound. Though it will likely last you the rest of your life.
Calamus root may or may not be a psychotropic drug. That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Well, I guess I’d also suggest getting some now before the temperance union finds out and campaigns to ban it.