Liquor Nerd: No matter how tight your cocktail game, the Campari Stir Crazy Recipe Catalog will make things better

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      Given the amount of time spent at home these past two years, chances are that you’ve picked up some skills when it comes to DIY bartending.

      In before-times, letting the pros do all the work was something you were happy to do. Then everything changed overnight, and suddenly it was time to learn on the fly, which involved making plenty of rookie-on-the-job mistakes.

      Like finally clueing in that no human being on the face of the earth has ever made a decent Margarita with ReaLime and unrefined corn syrup. And that ice that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer for nine months next to the raw Thailand prawns and northern Ontario whitefish is the reason your last Old Fashioned tasted like the tide had just come in at high noon in Mexico.

      Now that you’ve got pretty decent at making everything from a deliciously herbal Rosemary Gimlet to a potent Zombie to a Smoked Cedar Sour, it’s time to expand your repertoire. No one likes being stuck in a rut. But at the same time, improvising doesn’t always lead to greatness, as you discovered the last time you mixed three teaspoons of matcha tea powder with chili-pepper-infused gin, fresh pickle juice, Galliano liqueur, maple syrup, whipping cream, muddled garlic, and a whisper of absinthe with a durian garnish.

      Sometimes it's best to turn to the professionals.

      To that end, Campari Group Canada has stepped up to help out not only the likes of you, but bartenders across the country who’ve been impacted by two years of forced closure, capacity limits, and all the other devastation that’s come with COVID-19.

      When the pandemic first hit in the spring of 2020, shutting down the world, Campari Group Canada began hiring suddenly out of work bartenders across the country to come up with original cocktail recipes. (Brands under the Campari umbrella include Skyy vodka, Appleton rum, Aperol, Wild Turkey, Grand Marnier, and Espolón tequila).

      Recognizing the industry was still hurting as the Pandemic dragged on into 2021 and 2022, Campari Group, in conjunction with Bartender Atlas, restarted the program, this time hiring over 140 coast-to-coast bartenders to create custom cocktails.

      Those recipes have now been collected into the Campari Stir Crazy Recipe Catalog, and made available for purchase here. All proceeds will go directly to the out-of-work and underemployed Canadian bartenders who created the cocktails.

      Purchase options start at $25 for the basic catalog, and go up to $100 for what’s being called the “I really want to help the bartenders” edition. There’s also the option to purchase Campari Stir Crazy single recipes for $5 to $15.  

      Cocktails include original offerrings like Dream a Little Dream of Me (overproof rum, Campari, spicy guava syrup, pineapple, lime), Strawberry Kiwi Parfait (Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky, strawberry simple syrup, lemon, egg white, kiwi), and Grandma’s Whisper (SKYY Vodka, peppermint candy syrup, orgeat, lemon, rose water, egg white). In other words, and at the risk of stating the obvious, no one’s going to have you mixing lemon gin with a heaping tablespoon of Tang and then calling it a day.

      Golden Hour.

      Representing Vancouver in the Campari Stir Crazy Recipe Catalog is Olivia Povarchook of Tocador, who contributes a drink called Golden Hour. Described as “a bitter aperitif cocktail for the sweetest part of the day,” the creation includes Campari, Espolón tequila, pineapple, and orange marmalade.

      As you ponder whether to spend an hour or two’s wages on an initiative that does a world of good for those who continue to need the help, here’s a drink below I've been working on during the pandemic that you can make. After you take one sip dump it down the drain, and then order the Campari Stir Crazy Recipe Catalog. There’s no shame in admitting that, sometimes, you get the best results by following a recipe. Not to mention the instructions of a professional.

      The Detonator

      3 oz ghost pepper-infused gin
      1 oz Galliano
      1 oz Mrs. Butterworth’s simulated maple syrup
      3/4 oz whipping cream (the white-trash kind in a canister)
      1/2 oz dill pickle juice (preferable Polish-style with extra garlic)
      3 tablespoons No-Name Brand™ matcha powder
      1 giant Russian garlic clove
      absinthe in an unwashed spray bottle that used to contain Chloraseptic cherry sore throat spray
      1 overripe durian

      After you’ve muddled the garlic, dump all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and stir, then spritz with absinthe. Don’t bother adding ice—you want to drink this flavour-bombed bad boy straight. Serve with freshly-cracked-open whole durian, preferably in an enclosed space like a Finnish-style sauna, a packed-with-unwashed-13-year-old-boys Evo automobile, or a construction-site Porta Pottie that's been baking in an asphalt parking lot on a scorching-hot sunny day.