Review: Campari and Tempus Fugit Gran Classico

It’s a bitter bitter spirits battle here at Drinkhacker tonight!

In one corner we have Campari, the classic, bright-red bitter spirit that’s a key part of the Negroni and other ultra-bitter cocktails. In the other, cross-country foe Gran Classico, from Tempus Fugit Spirits. How do these bitter aperitifs measure up? Let’s find out!

Campari is made in Milan, Italy and has been around for 150 years. A pungent infusion of various fruit and herbs — and natural red coloring — Campari is intense on the nose with cloves, cinnamon, and some lemon notes. The taste is initially sweet, then the bitterness comes on strong. It’s actually quite pleasant to sip neat, much like a Fernet, and the bitterness is bracing. The red color, though, starts to mess with your head when it’s alone in a glass. It’s hard to shake the idea that you’re drinking pre-Jello or melted Jolly Ranchers… though the body thankfully doesn’t back that up. 48 proof. B+ / $22 / campari.com

Tempus Fugit Gran Classico was originally made in Turin, Italy but is now produced in Switzerland. It’s incidentally also about 150 years old. A more natural burnt sienna color, it looks more appealing in the glass, but the nose is immediately odd, a woody and earthy beast with a sort of, dare I say, rhubarb character to it. The body is quite sugary up front, and the bitterness that follows is about on par with Campari. Then Gran Classico throws a twist: It doesn’t linger on the bitterness, it finishes with a slight return to sweetness. Curious, but it’s not quite enough to make Gran Classico as interesting as, say, a Fernet. This is an aperitif with some interesting characteristics, but it’s lacking the balance that Campari has. 56 proof. B- / $30 / granclassico.com

Italy wins the round!


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6 Responses to Review: Campari and Tempus Fugit Gran Classico

  1. And yet, craft bartenders from San Francisco to D.C. have taken to Gran Classico with evangelical zeal. It is more bitter than Campari, and makes a better Negroni.

    Nothing wrong with Campari, but each of these has its uses and just because you have one doesn’t mean that you have no need or use for the other.

  2. While you’re on bitter spirits, how about a Cynar review?

  3. ML: You got it, coming soon!

  4. Just wanted to say how much i like the recent reviews of things that are widely available yet usually overlooked by reviewers

  5. I agree with t.

  6. Just one correction, Campari’s color isn’t made with natural ingredients – these days it’s made with a red, synthetic, dye. Some folks in my Italian family claim that Gran Classico is what Campari used to taste like before they changed their formula to save money.

    I also did an amari review on our Italian food blog:

    http://www.scordo.com/2009/11/before-and-after-drinks-italian-amari-aperitif-cocktail.html

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