THIS IS A PAID POST IN ASSOCIATION WITH CAMPARI
Ahhhh. Campari. Wherever I find myself in the world, I order a Campari. According to my post archives, amongst many examples, I was drinking Campari at home with dear friends in Clerkenwell back in 2009, in San Francisco whilst eating pizza and watching the Giants win the World Series in 2010, propping up the bar at The Tresanton in St Mawes in Cornwall in 2012, and even with Clive Owen in Rome in 2016.
My default serve has always been a Campari and soda, but lately I’ve been turning to the Negroni. There’s something about the splash of the translucent red liquid into a heavy cut glass tumbler, the kick of the gin, the aroma of the Vermouth over the clinking ice cubes, the scent of the orange zest on the edge of the glass…
It was around the year 1919 in Florence when Count Camillo Negroni requested an Americano cocktail but with a touch of gin instead of soda, inspired by his last trip to London and its prevalent gin scene. The bartender added an orange garnish rather than the lemon wedge of the Americano to signify the new drink he had created, which became known as Count Negroni’s Americano.
One hundred years later, the Negroni is now one of the most famous contemporary classic cocktails. The original recipe, a perfectly balanced combination of equal parts of Campari, Red Vermouth and London Dry gin, is recognised by The International Bartenders Association (IBA) and thus, there is no Negroni without Campari
Campari have used this centenary year of the Negroni as the narrative thread of the next instalment of the Campari Red Diaries short film series, Entering Red.
Directed by the Cannes Grand Prix winner, and critically acclaimed Italian director Matteo Garrone, and remaining true to Campari’s mantra that every cocktail tells a story, Entering Red stars actor Ana De Armas as she takes a mysterious journey through atmospheric night time Milan, the birthplace of Campari.
Her on-screen journey is guided by the Red Hands, six of the world’s best bartenders, who make cameo appearances in Entering Red, whichcloses with an intriguing twist in a secret bar: N100, named to celebrate the hundred year anniversary of Negroni.
Last week Campari flew me to Milan for two nights to attend the premiere of this year’s film. I checked into my room at the storied Hotel Principe de Savoia (home to a bar where, during Milan Fashion Week, you’ll find half the industry drinking Negronis), did the obligatory bounce on the bed, and changed for the Campari welcome aperitivo that evening.
The first surprise of the night came when, instead of being shepherded into the more usual taxis, we crossed the road in front of the hotel and were guided onto a beautiful tram car, which just so happened to have a Campari bar in the front. (We later learnt that the tram makes an appearance in Entering Red.)
I strap hung, with a Negroni in one hand, as the tram took us on a circular tour of the city, passing La Scala (below) and on to the venue for the evening, a bar where the film both begins and ends.
In celebration of the Negroni’s centenary, the Campari Red Hand bartenders (the ones who appear in Entering Red) have each created a unique twist on the classic recipe, and we got to taste them all once the tram had delivered us to one of the locations from Entering Red
One of my personal joys in drinking Campari is that I don’t usually feel rubbish the next day – it’s an aperitif not a spirit, and so the alcohol level is roughly half that of say vodka or gin, sitting between 20.5% and 28.5% ABV, depending on the country in which it is sold.
So, the next morning, instead of joining the guests piling into cars heading to the Anteo Palazzo del Cinema for the official press showing of Entering Red and theQ&A with the director and stars, I took a delightful walk in the sunshine to the venue, admiring Milan’s mixed architecture en route, and spotting trams that were sadly without Campari bars.
After watching Entering Red, the cast and director talked us through the film, which you can watch here:
Press conference over, and with nothing in my schedule until the early evening, I wandered across the road to a Milanese street that I know very, very well – the pedestrianised Corso Como. It has two landmark addresses for anyone who works in fashion: Cucina della Langhe, and 10 Corso Como.
The former is a restaurant where one inevitably ends up at least twice during Milan Fashion Week for plates of pasta that are introduced to billowing clouds of grated truffle by its exceedingly patient waiters, and endless delicious Negronis, and the latter is a multi-brand fashion boutique, cafe and gallery which set the global template for future fashion retail when it was founded in 1990 by the truly legendary gallerist and magazine publisher Carla Sozzani.
Whilst the sight of the former elicits a slight sense of MFW PTSD, and the latter is less of interest these days, the place that really gets my pulse jumping is that Italian temple to food and drink, Eataly Milano. Over several floors one can pretty much find anything that is tenuously connected to the edible world.
After filling my capacious and very handy Campari Entering Red tote bag with unwaxed lemons, Tardivo for a future risotto, more shapes of gluten-free pasta than I knew existed, and enough Torrone and pan forte di Sienna to glue my mother’s teeth together for days, I realised that I was exceedingly hungry.
Although I was now carrying enough ingredients to knock up lunch for the entire press corps, they weren’t going to be much use for dealing with my immediate hunger in their raw state. So I walked down to the centre of Milan to the Duomo area because I knew exactly where I was going to have a late lunch.
Some of Milan’s most beautiful and beloved locations take a starring role in Entering Red. Amongst them are the ravishing 19th century shopping arcade, the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, and one of my long-term favourite Milanese bars and restaurants, Il Camparino, which sits at the Duomo side of one of the Galleria’s four entrances. (You may remember me visiting a few years ago to drink Peroni Negronis at the bar.)
Il Camparino’s starring role in Entering Red gave me a sterling excuse to visit for lunch. There has been a bar on this site since Gaspare Campari moved into the galleria in its opening year, 1867, setting up his home, his restaurant and a wine shop on the corner looking towards Piazza Duomo.
Truly, if one is going to drink a Campari in Milan, then there is no better place to do so, whether you prefer standing at the bar, or sitting in the conservatory, choosing between an Americano, a Campari Soda, a straight Negroni, a Negroni Sbagliato, or perhaps simply a straight Campari on the rocks.
Sometimes, you just need to eat the classics – which was lucky for me, as they are Il Camparino’s stock-in-trade. I ordered spaghetti with tomatoes and bufala and, of course, a classic Negroni, whilst enjoying the view of the Duomo, and the sight of several Bassotti – sausage dogs, trotting past with their owners.
Then it was time to haul my groceries back to the Principe to get ready for the huge film premiere party in Milan that evening. The dress code was ‘A touch of red‘. Whilst a red manicure and pedicure certainly helped with the theme, I added in a pair of scarlet Marc Jacobs platforms, to add a flash of colour underneath my transparent black chiffon Needle & Thread dress and train, and Aritzia unstructured tux.
Truly we were Entering Red. There was even an homage to the original Count Negroni waiting to greet us as we arrived.
After enjoying the film premiere to a crowd of appreciative and very chic Italian guests, we headed out for supper. Of course, inevitably, we ended up back at Della Langhe.
With yet more Campari Sodas and a solitary Aperol Spritz chaser, we ate a vast amount of food. There were tiny salty carciofi (artichoke) fritti, a pile of gently resisting gnocchi in a puddle of melted fontina cheese, and yet more artichokes, this time in a perfect soupy all’onda risotto. Then there were four puddings for the three of us – a delectable chocolate hazelnut confection, tiramisu, chestnut ice cream doused in rum, and chopped fresh pineapple which had taken a leisurely bath in maraschino because, as a fashion friend likes to put it, order the pineapple or Della Langhe didn’t happen.
The next morning, conscious that I was flying at lunchtime and therefore had limited exploration time, I made a monumental effort not to sleep through my alarm, and headed back down to the Duomo at 8am to take photographs with my friend Alexandra before the masses arrived.
Although the Duomo always packs a visual punch, it’s worth watching out for the buildings in the background of Entering Red: in particular the Duomo is floodlit to turn ‘Campari red’ for the occasion and it’s quite the sight.
And then it was back to the Princh for a very large egg-based breakfast, (strange how eating all the food the night before gives one such a ravenous appetite the next morning; I always hope for a camel effect where my body could just live off the meal before for a day or two), and a hefty double espresso before the fight back to London from Malpensa.
With huge thanks to my friends at Campari for flying me to Milan, feeding me delicious food and plenty of Negronis, and for hosting me for two nights at the Hotel Principe de Savoia.
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