I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of Campari substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for Campari and Gran Classico, Cappelletti, Cynar, or Bruto Americano. For an easily accessible substitute or if you want something lighter and sweeter, Aperol can work. For a non-alcoholic alternative, go for Giffard Aperitif syrup or Lyre’s Italian orange.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I invited my friends over and made a couple batches of Negroni to try different Campari substitutes (the night got a bit wild afterwards!).
Campari is an Italian liquor considered an aperitif, which means it’s served as a pre-dinner drink.
It boasts a bright red color and has a bitter, citrusy flavor with spicy notes of clove and cinnamon.
I was looking for a substitute that could deliver the same flavor and make a tasty negroni.
Here’s are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Aperol||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Gran Classico||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Meletti Bitter||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Galliano Aperitivo||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Cappelletti||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Giffard Aperitif Syrup||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Homemade campari||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Note: liquor taste varies wildly from person to person.
My favorite substitue probably won’t be your favorite substitute.
There was a lot of debate between my friends when we were tasting the negronis (who knew I knew so many negroni experts!).
So the best thing to do is try a couple of substitutes before you decide on a favorite.
This was my favorite substitute.
Cappelletti is a wine-based aperitif that’s sweeter and easier to drink than Campari because of the vanilla undertones.
It’s like a blend between Campari and Aperol (I talk about this later), with a herbal orangey flavor and just a touch of bitterness. It’s works great in spritz’s.
And as a bonus, Cappelletti is a wallet-friendly liquor, making it an attractive option if you’re looking to save money!
Pro tip: if you find it too sweet, try pairing it with a bitter vermouth for a more balanced flavor profile.
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Cappelletti.
This is another “happy medium” between Aperol and Campari.
It’s not quite as bitter as Campari, with a less fruity and more savory base. It’s also not sugary like Aperol and works well swapped for either liquor.
Psst… really into your liquors? Try coffee infused Cynar for an exciting twist (I got this suggestion from a helpful reddit user!)
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Cappelletti.
Gran Classico is a standout Campari substitute that will bring a similar bright pop of bitter citrus flavor to your cocktails. The main tasting note is orange peel, and it also includes rhubarb (like Campari).
It’s got more nuance and complexity than Campari, and I actually preferred the negrioni with Gran classico over the standard negroni one!
I thought it added a sophisticated twist.
The cocktail had thicker mouthfeel and a silkier consistency. Yum.
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Gran Classico.
Meletti bitter is an underrated Italian aperitif that’s also based on oranges.
It’s a mixture of three distillates: sweet oranges, bitter oranges, and then a spice and herb infusion.
This gives it Camparis bitter, citrusy undertones alongside a rich, caramel note.
Meletti bitter is usually served as a digestivo (after dinner).
So if you prefer enjoying your Negronis after a hearty meal, consider swapping the Campari for Meletti bitter!
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Meletti bitter.
Galliano Aperitivo offers a refreshing take on a Campari substitute, featuring a less herbal flavor and a lighter body.
It’s infused with Mediterranean citruses like oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, giving it a bright feel but I found it to be a tad more bitter on the tongue.
I think this swap would be great for a balmy summer evening!
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Galliano Aperitivo.
Giffard aperitif syrup
Giffard Aperitif Syrup is a game-changer for those seeking an alcohol-free alternative to Campari.
With a similar thick consistency, this syrup boasts a bold, bitter orange flavor that hits just the right notes.
It’s superb in mocktails, but even simply blending it with soda water makes a deliciously refreshing drink.
Psst… the Giffard brand has loads of different flavoured syrups that you can experiment with.
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Giffard Aperitif Syrup.
Making Campari at home takes some patience and effort, but it’s worth a try if you’re up for the challenge.
The hardest part will be getting hold of the unusual ingredients like wild cherry bark or dried wormwood. But once you’ve got everything, you’re in for a treat.
The process starts with steeping all your spices in vodka for about 10 to 14 days, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify.
Once the waiting game is over, strain out the spices and mix the infused vodka with simple syrup.
Then, add around 20 drops of red food dye and voila, you’ve got yourself a homemade Campari that’s ready to elevate your cocktails!
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with homemade Campari.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above features my top picks for Campari substitutes, but there’s a whole world of Campari-like liquor to discover!
Give these options a whirl too:
- Suze – this is sometimes called the French Campari and is a good pick if you find Campari too harsh. It doesn’t have the same red color though!
- Bruto Americano – I found this to have a much more herbal taste than Campari, so I recommend using a bit less when you’re mixing it into a cocktail.
- Leopold Bros – a naturally colored alternative to campari, with cochineal giving it the vibrant red color we all expect
- Contratto Bitter – this liquor has a complex range of spices including ginger, clove, and cardamon, which I think makes it like a warm version of Campari.
- Luxardo Bitter – or try Luxardo bitter bianco for a white negroni
- Lyre’s Italian orange – this is another alcohol free alternative with blood oranges taking the lead.
- St. Agrestis Inferno Bitter – 100% organic ingredients are used to make this bitter, and I found it to feel more fresh than Campari with a more herbal flavor.
- Martini & Rossi riserva speciale bitter liqueur – a decently priced substitute that someone on reddit called “a dead ringer” for campari.
- Faccia Brutto Aperitivo – I’m running out of ways to describe all these different options now, bit just know I haven’t left the worst till last!
Can you substitute Aperol for Campari?
Aperol (made by the same company as Campari) is a divisive substitute for Campari.
It shares Campari’s bright orange color but it has a much sweeter, softer, and lighter flavor that I think makes it a bad swap.
When you use Aperol instead of Campari, you’re completely changing the drink!
That being said, it you hate Campari’s bitterness and find it too intense, you’ll probably enjoy Aperol. So don’t count it out just because of one persons opinion.
How to substitute: Replace Campari in a 1:1 ratio with Aperol.
16 Best Campari Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 2 cups 100-proof vodka
- ¼ cup gentian root
- ¾ cup dried orange peel
- ¼ cup dried lemon peel
- 2 tbsp angelica root
- 2 tbsp wild cherry bark
- 2 tbsp dried wormwood
- 1½ cups distilled or filtered water, divided
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- ½ tsp citric acid, optional
- 20 drops food coloring, optional
- In a large jar, combine the vodka, gentian root, orange and lemon peels, angelica root, wild cherry bark, and wormwood. Close the jar and shake well.
- Leave your mixture to infuse for 10-14 days in a cool, dry place. Remember to give it a shake everyday
- When you want to make the liqueur, make the simple syrup by boiling the water and sugar together.
- While waiting for the simple syrup to cool down, strain the spices from the infused vodka. You can do this twice to make your infusion clearer.
- Once the simply syrup cools down, mix it with the infused vodka. Stir in the citric acid and the remaining cup of water. Add the red food dye to reach your preferred color.
- Bottle the infused liquor in a jar or bottle and store at room temperature in a cool, dark place.