A Bitter Thrill

Campari Cocktails At Keith McNally’s Pulino’s

“One of the reasons why I like Campari drinks is because I associate them with the anticipation of things,” says veteran restaurateur Keith McNally, who since the 1980s has continually pioneered the restaurant scene in New York. “The idea that a Campari leads to something is quite tantalizing,” he notes of the classic apertif. McNally counts Anna Wintour and Madonna among the regulars at the many establishments that comprise his fiefdom (including French bistro Pastis, booked-out brasserie Balthazar and upscale modern speakeasy Minetta Tavern); his latest outpost opens officially for dinner this week. Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, situated on the increasingly trendy corner of Bowery and Houston, has been hyped to the roof during a gestation period of nearly five years. The unfussy Italian restaurant has a suitably sexy drinks menu that is heavily populated by Campari—five out of 22 cocktails include the scarlet liquid, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. McNally admits: “I’m a bit obsessive, and if I like something I take it to an extreme.” New York-based photographer Coke Wisdom O’Neal shot the libations with a macro lens, elevating the bitter liquor to an aesthetic that calls up both the rich abstract paintings of Mark Rothko and the close-up sensual photos of Marilyn Minter. As O'Neal puts it: "There's nothing better than blood red to get an erotic point across!"

According to McNally, the following Pulino’s Campari cocktails are best enjoyed with roasted olives, prosciutto, and Ciccioli Frolli (fatty underbelly of pork, cut into pieces and baked with lard). “Campari’s bitterness and acidity cuts through the fat in a really great way,” he says. 

Afternoon in Naples: 1 ½ oz Campari; 3 ½ oz fresh pink grapefruit juice; ½ oz simple syrup (ginger infused); ½ oz lime juice
Garnish: Lime peel  Glassware: White wine glass
Il Fiorentino
: 1 ½ oz Campari; ½ oz elderflower syrup; ¾ oz fresh lemon juice; 1 ½ oz pink grapefruit juice; splash club soda
Garnish: Lemon slice  Glassware: White wine glass
Macedonia: 1 ½ oz Campari; 1/2 oz sour cherry cordial; ½ oz clover honey ; 1 ½ oz fresh lemon juice; splash of prosecco
Garnish: Lemon peel or sour cherry  Glassware: White wine glass
Sorrento in Red: 1 ½ oz Campari; 1 oz limoncello; 1 oz fresh lemon juice; 2 ½ oz fresh orange or tangerine juice; dash orange bitters
Garnish: Lemon or clementine slice  Glassware: White wine glass
Bicicletta: 1 oz Campari; 2 oz dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio; splash club soda
Garnish: Orange slice lightly squeezed into the drink  Glassware: Rocks

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