Being aware that some of you good readers might not be in possession (yet) of exotic amari and fancy liqueurs called for in many aromatic stirred cocktails I came up with this simple yet satisfying concoction for the cocktail proletariat. If there is one amaro that everyone can get their hands on it is Campari, which is so ubiquitous that we sometimes even forget that is part of that noble family. Frankly if you don’t already have a bottle of the big C on your booze shelf you’re really not taking this cocktail business seriously enough. So there. The Red Star is basically a slightly tweaked Rum Manhattan: two parts rum to one part Italian vermouth, stirred and strained. Where it diverges is that instead of a couple of dashes of bitters we’re gonna use some home-made (yet almost zero effort) star anise infused Campari. Simply put 200ml of Campari in a clean jar. Add ten star anise*, using the most intact ones you can find. Leave for about 48 hours, stirring or shaking now and then. Note that Campari is only around 25% ABV (depending on your region) and wouldn’t normally be great for extracting spice flavours but luckily star anise gives us its essence pretty eagerly. After our soak simply sieve off the liquid but remember to keep the anise pods as we’ll be using them as a garnish. Bottle the StarPari and leave the drained stars out to dry before storing them in a small jar. Both should keep pretty much indefinitely and, indeed, I kinda like the way there’s no wastage in this simple recipe. The result of the addition of our Prooficated Campari is to add colour, depth and the complex spicy warmth of star anise to our Red Star. Anise can be a divisive spice so if you have a total aversion to it this might not be the cocktail for you but otherwise feel free to adjust the quantity to your taste – I’d say anything from a teaspoon to half an ounce are realistic options. The spice content of the Red Star makes it an excellent autumn/winter cocktail and, might I be as bold as to suggest, the ideal aperitif for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. I’m just putting it out there now so that you can get some practice in.
Now you might be wondering if you can use your new batch of magic Campari in a Negroni or Americano but the answer is a categorical fuck, yes**.
2oz/60ml Aged Cuban rum (Havana Club 7 is a good starting point).
1oz/30ml Punt e Mes (Italian vermouth).
0.25oz/7.5ml Star anise infused Campari as described above (adjust to taste).
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a Campari-soaked star anise.
Toast the Workers.
*When buying star anise try to find some where the pods (actually dried fruits) are as intact as possible. Buying from a specialist spice supplier can help.
**Although you may wish to use a mix of regular and anisified Campari unless you are a total anisehead.