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Chris Orr comments on… Cool Campari

Well, bust me breeches and beggar my belief. Campari is officially ‘cool’. What’s more it’s cool for the second year running. Can you believe that?

Well, bust me breeches and beggar my belief. Campari is officially ‘cool’. What’s more it’s cool for the second year running. Can you believe that? The drink that dominated the seventies as an icon of sophistication, then plummeted to the bottom of the ocean of taste in the eighties and nineties, has resurrected itself in the naughties.

“We haven’t experienced another spirit quite like Campari,” said Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the CoolBrands Council, the arbiters of taste who have bestowed official ‘cooldom’ on Campari. “Since its inception more than a century ago, Campari’s unique versatility has established its vibrant red nectar as an essential ingredient in the coolest of cocktails.”

Well, that’s a relief. I won’t have to go skulking around in dodgy, half empty failing bars ordering my Campari and Orange. Instead I can be loud and proud about it. Shout it to the rooftops.

Seriously though, it has been an amazing turn around in fortunes for Campari. It’s always been a very strong brand on home soil in Italy, where gallons of the stuff are alternately sipped, gulped and drowned in during the summer heat, but the last two decades have been a bit bleak for the brand in the UK. The early part of the new millennium, however, has seen a revival of many things from the seventies. Who’d have thought, for example, that space ships or sherbet dabs would be back on top with sugar craving kids. Or that the need to look like Shaggy off Scooby doo would preoccupy rock stars and male models. Or that we’d all be loading up painful love ballads aka James Blunt, onto our oh so modern i-pods. Or, perhaps more relevantly, that Mateus Rosé would be making a storming come back? Or Campari.

But then it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. The bright young things of the fickle fashion world, who so often are the supposed arbiters of taste and cool aren’t really that influential. It’s the 30-40 year olds with disposable income and a nostalgic memory chip that are really make or break for a brand. And as anyone who’s in that age gap knows, as you hurtle towards the frightening big four-o you seek comfort in things from the past – and if that means sipping pink wine from a bottle that’s destined to be a lampshade one day, or revelling in the bitter-sweet taste of Campari so be it. We naturally hide such human fraility behind the charade that its “retro” and “ironic” but it’s really just a comfort blanket as we head towards old age.

Depressed now? Don’t be. Because I can tell you this, it’s a lot more fun developing grey hair with a bright red gleam in your glass than a pint of lager or a glass of sauvignon blanc. Especially if that glass is served to you by a blond in hotpants and roller skates on a Miami beach – perhaps the most enduring image of Campari from its hey day. Now that would be an interesting “retro” statement from a brand. Not sure the advertising standards authority would see it the same way, but hell, it’s worth a go.

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