Early summer is my favorite time in the Midwest. We’ve shaken off winter, and we’re looking ahead to three months of warm weather, time at the lake, and locally grown produce. When strawberry season arrives, it feels like a promise of adventure ahead. I load up on berries at farmers’ markets and order all the strawberry dishes and drinks I can.
That’s how I became acquainted with strawberry-infused Campari. In 2017, I had it in two cocktails in one week: First, at Maison Artemisia in Mexico City, where the bartenders made negronis with strawberry Campari, and again days later, back in Chicago at Big Star, where I had a strawberry-infused mezcal Rosita. My interest was officially piqued.
The next weekend, I went to the farmers’ market, where I picked up fresh strawberries, sliced them up, and macerated them in a half-bottle of Campari—a bitter, ruby-colored Italian liqueur. The resulting infusion had bright, juicy notes that slightly softened the Campari’s bitterness. It worked beautifully in every application I tried. Negronis, Rositas, Boulevardiers, Negroni Sbagliatos, and even Campari-and-sodas tasted better with hints of strawberry. The infused Campari was gone in a flash. Strawberry season was over by then, but I vowed to make extra the following summer.
Now, each June, I make a couple of bottles of strawberry Campari. It’s just enough to last until fall, when strawberry season is long past but I still want to be reminded of the joys of early summer. I wait until the strawberries hit the farmers markets and seek out my favorite purveyor, Michigan’s Mick Klüg Farm. The season’s first berries are often tart, so I like to wait until a couple weeks into June, when the strawberries are a bit sweeter. Your local harvest may very. Then, I take them home, wait a week, and drink a strawberry Negroni on the balcony in the warm summer air.