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Campari is Made Differently Around the World: Cochineal, Coloring, ABV, & Eggs

15541338_1840521116237235_1944647162307011240_nI was researching a few different topics and stumbled upon an interesting observation: Not only is Campari sold at a wide-ranging variation of alcohol percentage in different countries, the coloring used to make its signature red is different depending on the country. 

As many people know, Campari was traditionally colored with cochineal, a scale insect native to South America that grows on the prickly pear cactus. (Cochineal is still used in many products today, as it is a natural coloring and doesn't need to be labelled as the unsightly 'artificial coloring'.)

In 2006 cochineal was discontinued - but as it turns out, not everywhere. In the United States and it seems most countries, Campari now uses artificial coloring. Depending on which country one is located in, that coloring must be declared in different ways, so what is merely "artificially colored" in the US is labelled as three specific coloring agents in one country, and none at all in others.  

But in at least one country, cochineal is still used. 

In the United States, Campari is sold at 24% ABV and the coloring is listed as "artificially colored."

Campari usa

 

In France, the ABV is 25% and the colorings are listed as E122, E102, and E133. 

Campari france 3 colors

 

Next door in Spain, no special colors are labelled, but it's also sold at 25% ABV.

Spain Campari 25 percent

 

 It appears it is the same in Argentina (with INS instead of E numbers), but the proof is 28.5%.

Campari argentina

 In Brazil it is the same, and labelled gluten-free. 

Brazilian Campari bottle

 

In Toronto, it is sold at 25% and the color is merely misspelled (kidding!) as "colour."

Toronto colour

 

In Australia, it is sold at 25% with no special color labelling. 

Australia campari

 

In Malaysia it is the same - 25%, no color labelling. 

Malaysia campari

In Japan, it appears to be sold at 25%. Anyone ready Japanese and can tell me if it says anything about coloring or eggs? 

(One reader responds: "Red #102, Yellow #5, Blue #1. Don't see any mention of eggs.")

Campari Tokyo2
Campari Tokyo2
 

In Israel, it's sold at 25% ABV with E122, E102, and E133 listed as colorants.

Campari_Israel

 

In Iceland, it's sold at 21% ABV with no special color labelling. 

Campari Iceland

 

Now here's where it gets really interesting.

I was wondering if the Swedish government website was merely out of date as it lists the coloring as E120 - that's cochineal(!), but a friend just picked up a bottle recently and cochineal is still in Campari in Sweden. Additionally, it is sold at 21% ABV. 

 

Campari sweden cochineal still

 

Update: A twitterer sent me a pic of bottles from Mexico - they also have cochineal! See the E120:

Campari in Mexico E120 coloring

 

And even more interesting is this bottle of Campari from Jamaica. Hold onto your butts:

  1. "Blended and bottled in Jamaica... by J Wray & Nephew" [Campari now owns JW&N]
  2. 28.5% ABV
  3. "Contains Egg"

 

Jamaican campari contains egg

CONTAINS EGG. Folks, that is some interesting news right there. Typically when eggs are used in wine, beer, and spirits (that aren't egg-based liqueurs), the eggs have been used in the fining process that helps filter the products to clarity. I think it's fair to assume this is how eggs are used in Campari. 

My guess would be that because Jamaica has a Rastafarian community, many of which are vegans, products fined with eggs are required to be labelled. 

What this means though, is that even though they took out the cochineal insect coloring (except in Sweden and Mexico apparently), Campari, at least in Jamaica, is still not vegan. 

The question remains what it is in the rest of the world - I would bet that Campari is still not vegan

 

Keep in mind that much cane sugar is whitened using bone charcoal, so any liqueur or sweetened alcohol has an okay chance of being non-vegan. 

 

Thank you to my Facebook and Twitter friends from around the world who shared their bottle images. If you live in another country not mentioned here, please send me your bottle image to add to this discussion. Thanks! 

 

 

 

 

Comments

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SSteve

I feel sad for your Icelandic reader whose bottle is nearly empty.

Seeing the 70cl/700ml labels brings me back to the year I spent in Oslo. After getting over the shock of a bottle costing twice as much as back home, it was another twist of the knife when I saw that it had less inside to boot. There were very few cocktails that year.

Michael Neiswender

I truly appreciate that you put this thread together. The internet is such a gold mine of obscure things that are really helpful. I just returned from Jamaica where I was determined to try the Campari solely because of this post. I can update you that Jamaican Campari no longer says "contains egg" on the label. Not sure if they changed anything. BUT I can tell you that in addition to the stronger 28.5% alcohol, they must be tinkering with the formula to appeal to local taste because it is much more herbaceous and strong flavored. I was taken aback and delighted and wish this were Campari everywhere. My drink at home tastes like campari-flavored kool-aid now.

Camper English

Thanks for following up - this is very interesting. It makes me wonder with the label and possibly flavor profile change if the Jamaican version is no longer fined with egg (as opposed to no longer being labelled as such), since it's registering as more herbaceous. That would be a true find!

Angela

I recently bought a bottle of the Jamaican blend and it is wonderful very herbaceous. I have it after dinner and it takes the edge off the day.
Truly a great fine

Suresh

Hi were did you purchase it I’m can’t seems to find it in Store’s

Jack Reisbeck

How about in Italia? I know the alcohol is 25% but what about the coloring? Grazie...

jean

I, too, would like to learn where you purchased the Jamaican blend of Campari!

Chris Paulsen

I’ve recently become hooked on the Negroni and drink 4-5 a week. I also add a splash of Campari to club soda much more often. Is the red coloring used in the US safe in the quantity I’m consuming? Would the Swedish version with E120 be better for me?

Camper English

HI - Don't worry, the food coloring is approved for safety whether it is artificial or made from bugs! Chances are we consume more artificial coloring in candy and other foods than in Campari.

Doreen McFarlane

Agree. Enjoyed the extra about eggs. Denmark not mentioned. Could be same as Sweden or Iceland.

Doreen McFarlane

I always boasted that I never got drunk from drinking Campari with loads of ice. Yesterday evening proved me wrong. I just love Campari but not aware it was actually 25% alcohol. I presumed i was only 10%

Doreen McFarlane

The Campari sold in Denmark is imported from Italy. Must be the real thing and not on franchise?

Micky Macdonald

We use Italian Campari, here in Canada, probably because of a large Italian community locally.
It just declares color, non specific and it is 25%

Micky Macdonald

That's funny, I'm going to use that line in the future, gee I'm sorry dear, I thought that Rum was only 15% lol

Dean

You seem to know much more about Campari than most. The underlying question that lead me to your post: What is the alcohol derived from? Everything says it’s composition is herbs and fruits infused with alcohol but never saying what the alcohol is made from. Any ideas? Dean

Camper English

Hi Dean - Come to think of it, I do not know for sure. Most Italian spirits are based on wheat or sugar beet spirit. Particularly the liqueurs seem to be sugar beet-based so that is my first guess.

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