The Garibaldi is a fruity, bittersweet brunch cocktail that’s easy but so satisfying! At its simplest, it takes just two ingredients to make: Campari and orange juice. You can just throw the two together in a glass over ice and have a nice drink, but with a teensy bit of extra effort you can make an incredibly delicious, elevated Garibaldi.
Who was Garibaldi?
Guisseppe Garibaldi was an Italian patriot and military hero who was well known for his key role in the unification of Italy in the 19th century. In fact, he went on to become a symbol of national independence movements all over the world. Interestingly, Garibaldi was born on July 4th (Independence Day in the United States).
The Garibaldi cocktail was created to symbolize the newly unified country: Campari representing northern Italy, and orange juice representing the south. The two combined creates a deep red-orange drink that’s meant to represent the red shirts worn by Garibaldi’s followers.
It’s not known who first mixed up a Garibaldi cocktail, but the story behind the drink and its namesake live on. This bright, festive, low-alcohol cocktail is a great option for brunch, afternoon gatherings, or these last warm September happy hours spent on the patio.
What is Campari?
Campari is a bright red, intensely bitter (but also sweet) liqueur from Piedmont, Italy. It’s made with a secret blend of herbs and fruit, including oranges and rhubarb. Apparently only one person knows the exact list of ingredients, which only adds the the mystique of this iconic red liqueur.
The flavor of Campari is complex, and it can be a bit hard to describe. There are prominent notes of orange, cherry, rhubarb and spice. It is a wholly unique liqueur and not at all like the gentler, barely bitter Aperol.
Campari is a bit too intense to drink on its own (in my opinion), but it’s great in a Campari Soda, a spritz with sparkling wine and soda water, or in the drinks it’s best known for: the Negroni and the Americano. Campari is the backbone of all of these drinks, lending a vivid red hue and a distinctive, bittersweet, citrusy flavor.
Folks tend to either love or hate Campari, and it can be an acquired taste. The sweetness of freshly squeezed orange juice is a perfect match for the bitter flavor of Campari, making the Garibaldi a great introduction to this intense liqueur.
How to make the perfect Garibaldi
The Garibaldi is a mix of an ounce and a half of Campari and 4-6 ounces of orange juice. For the best flavor and maximum sweetness, it’s important that the juice be freshly squeezed. However, you can elevate the drink even further while softening the bitterness of Campari by making what’s called “fluffy” orange juice.
The concept of fluffy citrus juice seems to have been invented by Naren Young at the New York bar Dante. At Dante, they use a high speed juicer to aerate their orange juice, but at home you can use a blender or a handheld frother. This extra step gives the drink a foamy head, lightens things up, and lets some of the more nuanced flavors shine through.
I like to squeeze my oranges over a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup, and then use a handheld frother to fluff up the juice. In a tall glass, add ice and one and a half ounces of Campari, then top it off with the frothed juice.
The traditional garnish for a Garibaldi is an orange wedge tucked into the top of the glass, but this isn’t very practical when enjoying the drink. Here I’ve garnished with half an orange slice.
Pro tip: add a pinch of salt
Make your Garibaldi even better by adding a tiny pinch of salt. Salt makes the juice taste even sweeter and tones down any bitter flavors from the fruit’s pith. Most cocktails that use citrus juices are improved by adding just a pinch of salt.
This cocktail template also works with other red bitter liqueurs. You can make it with Aperol as well, but it may be too sweet. Aperol is a much less bitter liqueur than Campari. If using Aperol, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice for balance.
I love to make a Pineapple Garibaldi. Pineapple pairs beautifully with both Campari and orange and it increases the fluffiness of the juice. Simply replace one ounce of the orange juice with fresh pineapple juice and combine all ingredients as usual. Garnish with a pineapple frond and an orange slice.
Another way to mix up your Garibaldi is to try other types of oranges. I’ve used blood orange juice and a blend of valencia and mandarin juice all with great success. Mandarins are a bit tedious to juice, but their juice is extra sweet. If you love mandarins, try my Mandarin Ginger Gin Sour!
Garibaldi (Campari and Orange) Recipe
- 1½ oz Campari
- 4-6 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
- pinch salt (optional)
- Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour the Campari and orange juice* into the glass and add a tiny pinch of salt.
- Stir to combine and garnish with an orange wedge or slice.
- *Make your Garibaldi even better by "fluffing" the orange juice. To fluff the juice, pour it into a blender or use a handheld frother for about 15-30 seconds, or until foamy.