Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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May 13, 2011

Libation Education: Campari

We haven't had a "Libation Education" in a while, and I feel it's my duty as the Lush Chef to provide the occasional fun lesson.  When the warmer months approach, most people crave margaritas, but I crave Negronis (recipe to come later).  The chief ingredient in these simple Italian cocktails is Campari, a citrusy bitter amaro (Italian bitter apéritifs), that for many is an acquired taste.  About 5 years ago in LA, there was a series of free, arty House of Campari events that attempted to develop young Angeleno palates.  I remember sipping on my first Negroni and despising it - it was far too bitter for me and I couldn't imagine myself coming to love it.  A few more events later, and I'd taken a shining to this ruby red libation.

Campari was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy.  The liqueur was a fusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit (including chinotto - a small, bitter orange-like fruit that is grown in select regions of Italy) in alcohol and water.  It was originally dyed with carmine, a red dye derived from cochineal insects (mmm), and was called "Bitter Uso Olanda."  The recipe is still a closely guarded secret - some suspect it contains up to 20 ingredients, while others speculate there are 60.

In the late 1860's, Campari moved his family to Milan and opened up Caffé Campari where he could serve his distinctive liqueur.  This was also where the Americano cocktail was invented and was later enjoyed by a ton of American's (thus the name) in the early 1900's.  In the 1890's, the family started working with artists to create eye-catching, and sometimes racy, posters and advertisements.  Spearheaded by Gaspare's son David, the company soon became known for being artist-friendly and cutting-edge with its campaigns.

So go run out and buy a bottle, because yours truly is going to be posting Campari recipes all next week!