Why You Should Be Spiking Your Frozen Desserts with Campari

June 29, 2015

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?

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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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Johan Johansen
    Johan Johansen
  • boulangere
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • PS007
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Johan J. June 30, 2015
I've actually just been tasked with finding a use for a bottle of Campari. I honestly don't care too much for the stuff as it is, but this just might do the trick!
Sarah J. June 30, 2015
I can vouch that this granita is amazing. I would rather eat this than have a cocktail, any night of the week.
PS007 January 22, 2017
Man kick that bottle over to me, I'll use it! Negronis of course, but also try an Americano: Equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth (Dolin is my favorite), topped w/soda water and an orange slice, DELICIOUS!
Fell in love with these in Florence and now they're a staple summer drink for me, refreshing and light.
boulangere June 29, 2015
I make this during the summer months. It's worth the slog through a Northern Rockies spring to get to it. https://food52.com/recipes/12744-macerated-summer-fruit-shortcakes-with-a-dividend