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What makes a cocktail go viral?

The Garibaldi was everywhere this summer. But what made the two-ingredient serve go viral?

Garibaldi
The cocktail is traditionally made up of Campari and orange juice

*This feature was originally published in the August 2022 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

We’ve been saying it since April: the Garibaldi is the drink of summer 2022.

The two-ingredient cocktail, named after Italian revolutionary general Giuseppe Garibaldi, is traditionally made up of Campari and orange juice, and seems to feature on every cocktail menu at present.

From the weekend brunch list at Nomad London to the frozen takeaway menu at east London’s Silver Lining, the Garibaldi has taken over. But what has driven the sudden resurgence of the sunset-hued serve?

When we ask Nate Brown, owner of Soda and Friends in London’s Canning Town, what he thinks makes a cocktail ‘go viral’, he doesn’t miss a beat: “Instagram”.

The influencer culture of social media influences the drinks we make. Instagram tunes people into what others are drinking, and when they see it they want it too.

Insta-famous

New York bar Dante’s tall, fluffy, almost caricature-style Garibaldis are now ‘Insta-famous’, having racked up more than 25,000 video plays and close to 20,000 likes in the past 15 months on the platform.

“The Garibaldi is the absolute signature drink of Dante,” says Linden Pride, principal of both New York outposts of the acclaimed bar.

“We call it ‘fluffy orange juice’ on the menu because we juice oranges through a very high-speed Breville juicer, which essentially pushes air into it, creating this beautiful, aerated, fluffy texture that is now being copied around the world.”

He’s right. Sergio Leanza, owner of south-east London’s Funkidory, directly credits Dante for the technique he uses in his bar’s version, in which cold oranges are juiced at high speed to inject the ‘fluffiness’, before adding “a healthy measure of Campari and a spray of absinthe on the inside of the glass”.

But even Pride admits that Dante’s influential serve was itself inspired by another bar’s creation – the now closed North Bondi Italian Food in Sydney, Australia.

Riffs and twists on established serves are common features on menus, and the creativity and imagination of bartenders often directly inspires other bars.

You just need to look at serves such as the first-of-its-kind Mirror Margarita from Hacha in Dalston to see how innovation leads to the greatest form of flattery: imitation.

The deceptive water-like appearance of the award-winning cocktail has been replicated in bars across the capital. But still, the transparent Marg hasn’t quite caught on in the way the Garibaldi has this year.

What is it about the cocktail that has captured the attention of bartenders and consumers alike?

“Some cocktails seem to spring up out of nowhere, and are either seen on every menu in town or are being requested by every other guest at the bar,” says Adam ‘Boots’ Brogan, World Class US Top 50 bartender, and presenter of cocktail and spirits YouTube channel The Bootsy Guide.

“You could argue any number of reasons, from simple word-of-mouth, to clever liquor industry marketing, or you could even blame Gen Z and their damned TikTok drinks, but the answer is simpler. Or, to be more specific, all of the drinks are simpler.”

Brogan explains further: “Some of the best drinks are the simplest. Margaritas, Manhattans, Cosmos, Negronis; customers can understand every ingredient on the menu, and if they’re asking for a drink that’s easy to make and, better yet, quick to make – I’m all for it. I don’t want to make a drink that takes five minutes to make any more than you want to wait five minutes to drink it.”

Garibaldi
Funkidory’s take on the Garibaldi

Simple solution

Simplicity is at the core of the Garibaldi, and like other iconic two-ingredient cocktails where twists and variations come into play, the foundations remain the same, and consumers understand that.

“The Garibaldi has always been on the edge of consumer consciousness, but often people underestimate it,” says Luca Missaglia, managing director of liqueur brand Amaro Santoni.

“With the amazing quality of ingredients and techniques available now, it can be so much more. Our Garibaldi, for example, is made with centrifuged blood orange, which perfectly complements the rhubarb botanicals of the liquor.”

The Garibaldi also meets the growing consumer desire for lower-ABV drinks, which runs alongside the growth of aperitivo culture.

“People in the UK have become more accustomed to the bitter apéritifs category,” says Leanza. “That, mixed with fresh ingredients and having a low ABV, makes the Garibaldi the perfect combo.”

In the same way that the Margarita’s meteoric rise can be attributed to the Tequila boom (Google search volume data named it the world’s most popular cocktail in 2021), the same can likely be said for the Garibaldi’s botanical foundations.

According to the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2022, bitters and amaros are in the top five spirits of interest, with a 38% rise in the category’s popularity.

In the past 12 months, many amaros have been released in the UK, such as Giuseppe Gallo’s Savoia American Rosso Amaro Dolce, and Amaro Santoni.

West London even has a bar named Amaro, run by former Savoy head bartender Elon Soddu – and yes, it has a Garibaldi on the menu.

New discoveries

These new amaros have joined the likes of Sweetdram, which claims to be the world’s first Scotch-whisky-based amaro, and Asterley Bros’ Dispense Modern British Amaro, launched by Jim and Rob Berry.

Talking about what is driving the popularity of amaros, Rob says: “Over the past seven or eight years people have begun to get under the hood of the botanical processes, thanks to the gin boom. Now gin has started to hit the top of its trajectory, a lot of the people who fell in love with it are looking for new things to discover. The Aperol, Campari, aperitivo moment is giving people an opportunity to understand what this massive amaro category is. People are talking about it and understanding it.”

When it comes to the Garibaldi, Rob thinks it goes deeper than that.

“Gin feeds into botanicals, which feeds into Negronis, which is a cool bartenders’ drink that is easy to replicate at home, and that opens up the wider world of these botanical bitter liqueurs and the cocktails they go into.”

And here we return to the Garibaldi – the Instagrammable, low-ABV, two-ingredient botanical serve that we have social media, sober-curiosity, and a decade of gin lovers to thank for its position in the spotlight.

Or, it may just be that people really love orange juice, but whichever it is, we bet you’re going to start seeing it everywhere now, too.

Garibaldi
Twist: Amaro Santoni’s Garibaldi is made with centrifuged blood orange

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