Drink of the Week: The Killer in Red

The Killer in Red.If the name of this week’s drink sounds like the title of a mid-20th century pulpy crime thriller to you, you’re half right. It’s taken from a very classy, though entirely promotional, 13 minute neo-noir homage from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, best known in the states for his all-star drama “Youth” and his Fellini-esque “The Great Beauty.” As booze commercials go, “The Killer in Red” is, typically for Sorrentino, rich in deep-dish eye candy, from it’s outlandish L.A.-centric decor to French-Swiss co-star Caroline Tilvlette, who motivates Clive Owen’s bartender to get involved in some ill-advised behavior.

The drink that the short promotes also has its sensual pleasures, particularly for lovers of Campari, like me. The fact that I’ve been getting free bottles lately from a shadowy representative of the aperitif really doesn’t enter it. (Really!) I love the stuff. And, since Campari’s flavor largely dominates today’s drink, I also pretty much love today’s drink. Let’s check it out.

The Killer in Red

3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. chamomile gin or standard dry gin
3/4 oz. Cinzano 1757 Bianco (or another bianco)
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1 drop of rose water or rose essential oil (if you can find it)

To make the chamomile gin, if you want, simply take your gin and throw some chamomile tea bags in for several hours, perhaps overnight. If you want a whole 750ml bottle’s worth, use about 18 tea bags. If you don’t want quite so much (I didn’t) take, say, 10 ounces of gin and throw in about seven bags, or do the math to figure out the right amount for the amount of gin you want to use. Then, remove them after letting it steep for six to eight hours.

The rest of the drink is pretty straightforward. Simply add all the alcoholic ingredients together in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker and either stir or shake, as you prefer. (The original recipe calls for stirring, but I strongly prefer this one shaken.) Then add your drop of rose essential oil, if you can find an ingestable version. I didn’t, so I stuck with rose water, which was fine, although I imagine less visually splendid and perhaps less rosey.


I gave this one a try in a number of different ways. For you lazy folks who don’t feeling like trying chamomile infusion, I have to say this drink works okay with just plain old gin, though the former is preferable, as the chamomile adds just a bit of additional complexity. And while I love, love, love Cinzano 1857 Bianco all on its own, using Dolin’s almost-as-good bianco produced a drink that was a bit more chewy in some ways, though notably less smooth.

I also used both Bulldog Gin, a very interesting dark horse (or dark dog?) of a gin, and my current default, Bombay Dry. I have to say that, with all the different flavors going on in this drink, it didn’t make much of a difference which gin I used. I’d guess that just about any drinkable brand would work here. I think that’s because, to be honest, it’s the Campari flavor that really dominates this drink. You’d better like it, and since I love it, it works for me.