Esmerelda – Campari & Pineapple Cocktail

img_3073This cocktail came about as a result of my wife’s work travels and actually trying to do something with Campari in her hotel bar.  Now, my wife is not an immediate fan of all things bitter like I am, and took a swing at using pineapple to tame some of the Campari’s bitterness. Campari & pineapple juice? It has led to getting back into the cocktail design game but she had to approve the final version of this lower alcohol summer and fall drink.   

Starting with the two touchstones of Campari and Pineapple juice, together they are a good start and play incredibly well off of each other.  I still wanted to let the Campari relax a bit more. With that in mind, I turned to adding just a little gin to give the Campari some room to breath and a splash of simple syrup to further tame the strident Campari.  Finally, one last accent was needed to really bring it into balance, and we settled on a dry curacao. I finally realized that we were dancing around a Margarita style sour with an assertive base (Campari), a citrus like fruit juice (Pineapple) and the touch of simple syrup and gin.   With the addition of the dry curacao, the cocktail really came into its own retaining the ineffable flavor and stylings of Campari but in a more muted and balanced way with the sweetness of the pineapple juice set off with a caramelized pineapple garnish.

Naming the cocktail was also a collaborative effort.  Talking about taming an assertive or bitter flavor profile also was described as taming an assertive or bitter character.  My wife recalled a book from her youth called The Plain Princess. In that book, Esmerelda the princess was a spoiled brat who did not have redeeming qualities at all.  She was transformed into the Plain Princess, with humility and good graces over the course of the book. This certainly was the same thought she had about taming the assertive and spoiled Campari with the pineapple juice, and the Esmerelda was born.

Pineapple Notes

If you want to get a whole pineapple, break it down and juice it yourself, it will produce far superior juice with a higher acid content than the canned or pasteurized juice available in most stores.  We are, however, far from pineapple fields but decided to go the hard way about it by juicing store bought pineapple chunks. If you have fresh pineapple, check to see if you need to adjust the measures below.   



  • 1.5oz/45ml Campari
  • 1oz/30ml Pineapple Juice
  • .5oz/15ml Dry Curacao like Pierre Ferrand or Cointreau
  • .25oz/7.5ml Gin
  • .25oz./7.5ml Simple Syrup
  • 2-3 Dashes Orange Bitters
  • Sugar
  • Pineapple chunk for garnish



  1. [Optional] Roll pineapple chunks in a tray of sugar & hit with a brulee torch to caramelize
  2. Fill shaker tin ⅔ full of ice
  3. Add the liquid ingredients
  4. Shake
  5. [Optional] Rim a cocktail glass with sugar
  6. Double strain into the chilled cocktail glass
  7. Garnish with a caramelized pineapple chunk


The sugar rim and pineapple garnish will further tame the Campari especially for people who are not completely in love with the bitter flavors that define it.  If you don’t have caramelized pineapple chunks sitting around, or a torch to make them, a regular pineapple chunk will do just fine. The gin provides an accent with it’s different flavors to deepen the cocktail but the quarter ounce doesn’t have the juniper overpower the rest of the drink.  The sweetness of the pineapple and the orange flavors of the Campari dominate as you take a sip giving way to the more bitter and complex flavors on the back of the taste.  


What is your favorite use of Campari outside the classic Negroni or a simple spritz?  Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!