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Why You Should Be Spiking Your Frozen Desserts with Campari

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Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52—with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Why only drink Campari when you can eat it, too?

Granita is often described as a snow cone or slushy for grown-ups, but that comparison doesn't do the granita justice. Instead of cloying (probably artificially-flavored) syrup over shaved ice, granita is vibrant with fresh, real ingredients, and it melts on your tongue with bursts of pure flavor—an icy seduction on a sultry day. 

In Italy, classic granita is either lemon or espresso, but almost any fruit purée, as well as all kinds of flavorful liquids, are fair game for flavoring new versions. The best granita seems to balance sweet with tart, sour, or bitter. This not only explains the reign of lemon and espresso, but also why you can make fabulous (though unconventional) granita from wine or even beer

Granita is easy to make: Partially freeze a flavorful, lightly sweetened liquid or purée in a shallow pan, rake it with a fork, then freeze and rake again to form icy shards and crystals. Granita alone is already perfect, but it’s dreamy topped with whipped cream and magical spooned over a scoop of vanilla ice cream—the contrast of icy with creamy gets me every time. 

To make a good granita, watermelon would normally need a little jolt of lime or lemon juice to make the flavor pop. But Campari is a more compelling way to do that job—and then some. Its bitter herbal flavor adds alluring complexity to the innocent watermelon. Put in another way: If watermelon were your date, Campari would make him (or her) much sexier. Try it.

Watermelon Campari Granita

Serves 8 to 10

cups (1200 grams) bite-size watermelon chunks (from a 5-pound watermelon)

cup sugar (plus 1 tablespoon if the watermelon is not very sweet)

 cup plus 2 tablespoons Campari, plus extra for drizzling

Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and/or sliced strawberries, for serving (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Tags: Frozen Dessert, Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts, Campari, Watermelon