Richard Black, VP Marketing for Vodka & Cordials for Campari America, talks Chilled through the growing trends of bitter forward flavors and fills us in on the makings of the new Campari digital calendar.

Meet Richard Black VP Marketing White Spirits & Cordials, Campari America

Photo Credit Campari

The craft cocktail movement, along with a growing affinity for bold tastes, seems to have amplified the bitters market these days. Talk to us about the brands Aperol and Campari–what keeps these distinct flavors popular behind the bar?

Bitter liqueurs have surged in popularity in recent years. With the growth of cocktail culture, greater consumer knowledge, and a bartender-led love of traditional Italian drinks (like the Negroni and Spritz), Italian drinking rituals have spread rapidly here in the United States. It’s because of Aperol and Campari’s authentic histories, enduring traditions, and high-quality standards that they have instilled themselves as leaders within this expanding culture.

Campari, specifically, is such a distinct flavor that it really can’t be replicated or replaced. The vibrant red color and intense flavor keep it an intriguing and iconic liqueur.

Aperol also serves a very distinct purpose behind the bar. As we’ve seen, especially in recent years, people are increasingly looking for low-alcohol cocktails to enjoy in social settings. Aperol works so well in those types of recipes, particularly with the Aperol Spritz and its 3-2-1 recipe.

To what do you attribute the shift in consumer tastes (from sweet to more bitter preferences)?

From coffee to kale to Brussels sprouts, the American palate has shifted to prefer more bitter tastes, and Campari has been able to ride that tidal wave because of its flavor profile. Combined with the recent resurgence of classic cocktails (and partially thanks to Mad Men), bartenders have fostered the rise in consumers rediscovering bitters in cocktails. Most notably, the Negroni has seen increasing popularity over the years, and Campari is the key element that defines that drink.

Talk to us about Campari’s latest campaign-Campari Red Diaries, Killer in Red–a multimedia progression to its annual calendar. How did it originate?

The Campari Red Diaries represents an evolution of the classic Campari Calendar that we’ve seen for the past several years. People consume news and form opinions in ways they hadn’t when we first started the Campari Calendar, that is to say, digital media and video are bigger than ever. We felt it was the perfect time to add a fresh perspective to the campaign.

This year, the Campari Red Diaries harnesses the richness of storytelling alongside the medium of film to channel the contemporary edge and versatility, which has been key to the brand’s success: adapting and embracing current times and evolving trends to offer something with a fresh twist for Campari lovers to engage with like never before.

campari bottles and cocktail

Photo Credit Campari

The short films, videos, and imagery focus on the craft of bartending and the ethos that ‘every cocktail tells a story.’ Talk to us about this attention to the bartender and the craft cocktail culture.

Bartenders are the backbone of the spirits and cocktail industry, and we really wanted to celebrate that in this year’s Campari Red Diaries. They are the ones driving new trends and experimenting with new ingredients. That creativity is what we really wanted to focus on. A lot of these innovative ideas that bartenders come up with are inspired by their own experiences, so it made perfect sense to highlight them telling the actual story behind their signature cocktails.

Talk to us about this yearlong campaign, the bartenders who were featured, and the notion that every cocktail tells a story.

The first edition of Campari Red Diaries captures the experiences and emotions that inspire bartenders to share their craft, while celebrating cocktails as a form of art and a powerful vehicle of expression. Each month coincides with a short film featuring one of our distinguished bartenders from around the world sharing their own cocktail recipe and the story behind it.

Behind every cocktail lies the story that inspired its creation, introducing viewers to the magic behind the formation of a year-long series of Campari cocktails every month, while placing the culture of mixology and its many at facets center stage. It is not often the art of cocktail creation is celebrated, and now felt like the perfect time to shine a light on the artistry of the world’s bartenders.

As for the bartenders involved, we were fortunate enough to work with some of the most respected global bartenders and be able to tell their individual stories, including the legendary Julie Reiner, who represented the United States. Our selection of mixologists was made with versatility in mind, reflecting our appreciation for the creativity and inspiration shared on a global scale by those involved. The richness and diversity of the different characters, paired with their unique backgrounds and nationalities contributed to make each and every cocktail story distinctive. It allows consumers to truly immerse themselves in Campari Red Diaries as each tale unfolds.

What types of influences and inspirations in your past experiences would influence your cocktail creations (if you created a cocktail)?

I find a lot of inspiration in my work, especially since I’m surrounded by creative people in the spirits industry. Having worked all over the world on spirits brands–any signature cocktail of mine would be sure to include some unique ingredients sourced from interesting places around the globe. It would also probably include Appleton Estate Rum, a brand that I worked closely on for many years and a personal favorite of mine. Like Campari, rum is so versatile–especially Appleton Estate-and can be used in so many diverse ways. So with those experiences in mind, I was introduced to the Kingston Negroni (or Jagroni) in London by Ian Burrell (Global Rum Ambassador) and it was an instant love affair. So while I technically didn’t create it, it opened my eyes to the versatility of these two great spirits, and the cocktail has served me well ever since.