According to Gary Regan, author of The Negroni, there’s a Milanese theory that a person must drink Campari three times before starting to like it. I can’t recall the first time I had the bitter Italian aperitivo, but I’ve been obsessed with it in recent years. With a slow-building bitterness softened by floral orange and resin notes, Campari is a versatile, enigmatic spirit. Today, we’re exploring a cocktail perfect for those of you seeking a respite from the everyday: The Scorched Earth.
Earlier this week, I teased a photo of this cocktail as the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day cocktail, and I stand by that. Comprised of two bitter, herbal Italian liqueurs, Campari and Cynar, the Scorched Earth is a feisty, complex cocktail—not for the faint of heart.
Dark brown Italian Cynar is derived from 13 herbs and plants, including the artichoke, from which it takes its name. Cynar is considered to be both an aperitivo and and a digestivo due to its bittersweet flavor. In the Scorched Earth, the spirit adds a touch of sweetness that softens the bitter orange flavor of Campari.
The other component of the Scorched Earth cocktail is smoky mezcal, featured in my Smoky Mezcal Negroni. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, Mexico, from the charred hearts of the maguey plant, a form of agave. The piña, or heart, of the agave plant is harvested and roasted for three days over hot rocks in an underground pit. This gives the spirit its distinct smoky aroma and flavor. The piña are crushed and allowed to ferment. Then, spices and botanicals are added and the mash is distilled through clay or copper stills, which impart flavor into the final spirit.
The Scorched Earth is a feisty, complex cocktail for those who are fed up with the norm. A smoky Mezcal backbone gives way to bittersweet Cynar, herbal Campari and sweet orange. I like to serve the Scorched Earth cocktail up with a twist of orange peel to cut through the bitterness, though it’s equally delicious over ice with a splash of club soda.
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce Cynar
- 1 ounce Mezcal
- ½ ounce orange juice, fresh squeezed
- 5 drops orange bitters
- Orange twist, for garnish (optional)
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add Campari, Cynar, Mezcal, orange juice and orange bitters.
- Shake until chilled, 20 to 30 seconds.
- Strain over ice into a rocks glass or up into a martini or coupe glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist and serve immediately.
Thirsty for more Lexi Bites’ Negroni variations? Try my Smoky Mezcal Negroni or French Negroni.