Who would have thought that two neon-colored Italian liquors founded in 1860 would survive to fill 21st century glasses?
It recently came to my attention that both Campari and Strega are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. You'd think that if you had that kind of staying power, you'd earn the privilege of celebrate your sesquicentennial on your lonesome—at least in your own country! But no, the red and the yellow will have to share.
Strega (or Liquore Strega) was invented by Giuseppe Alberti, and has long been produced by the S. A. Distilleria Liquore Strega in Benevento, Campania, halfway between Rome and Naples. Its yellow color comes from the presence of saffron in its recipe. Approximately 70 herbal ingredients, including mint and fennel, help it out in the flavor department. "Strega" means Witch in Italian; hence, the drink's nickname, "The Witch."
Campari, meanwhile, hails from the north. It was the invention by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. It originally got its vibrant red color through carmine dye, derived from (yeesh) crushed cochineal insects. It contains more than 60 ingredients, making it only a trifle less complex than Strega, if we go by the numbers. Campari has arguably won the popularity contest over the two bottle's 150-year run. Certainly, it's more prevalent in American bars.
If you want to honor both, don't sweat it. Campari is an apertif, Strega a digestif. You can enjoy both in the context of a single meal.
Not sure how they feel about Strega, but you'll be well set for Campari drinks at the new Pulino's in Manhattan. See below.