The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
Jeffrey Moll Jr., head barman at the Good Pie (6665 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-899-9221), loves Campari because it's bitter and citrusy, and it reminds him of summer. It finds its way into a lot of his cocktails. When it comes to summer drinking, he feels (and the Drunken Vegan agrees) you really can't go wrong with Campari.
This herbal-infused liqueur has been around since the mid-19th century. The drink's characteristic bright red color used to derive from cochineal or carmine, a natural color created by grinding up small red insects. In 2006 Campari stopped using beetles and switched to a synthetic dye. That was very good news for the Drunken Vegan who prefers his tipple to be cruelty-free.
The Drunken Vegan had two classic cocktails that call for Campari at the Good Pie. The Negroni combines gin, vermouth and Campari served up. A generous spiral twist of orange peel meets the nose with bright citrus. The botanical components of the gin come through in the first sip, followed by some herbaceous notes from the vermouth, and then, finally, the lovely clean bitterness from the Campari. All of these flavors marry beautifully in this classic cocktail.
The Americano is a lighter variation on the Negroni, using soda water instead of gin. It is served over ice in a tall glass with an orange slice. The orange complements the natural citrus notes in the Campari, and the herbal vermouth shines through. The bitterness of the Campari is lightened by the effervescence of the soda water. Very refreshing.
But to experience this spirit nakedly, try a simple Campari over ice topped up with soda water. The Drunken Vegan sampled this elegantly simple preparation at Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088). Its clean bitterness also hits a subtle citrus note. It is a perfect light summer cocktail. And after a long shift at Olio, it's the staff's drink of choice. That's an endorsement the Drunken Vegan enthusiastically seconds.