Last updated on June 30th, 2019
The colors of black and red in this blackberry Campari cocktail honor the Italian game of bocce. And you can drink it while playing!
As a man who bleeds Pitt Panthers blue and gold and who proudly saved his commemorative beer steins from the Steelers’ 1970s Super Bowl dynasties, I’m sure it was quite a disappointment to my father to have both his daughters basically come out of the womb with two left feet and hands.
So fearful were we of losing our precious, lens-assisted eyesight that we removed our nerd glasses to play Nerf football in the backyard.
Golf lessons? The humiliation of having so little strength that the instructor swung me along with the club while demonstrating how to get out of a sand trap still brings a burning flush to my cheeks.
Swimming? Never learned to dive until I was 21 years old. At least my sister had enough hand-eye coordination to play the piano.
But there was one sport that even a terribly klutzy, athletically challenged Barber girl could play.
The Italian game of bocce is almost too simple. Throw a small ball (the jack) onto the field so two teams can take turns rolling larger balls (the bocce) as close to it as possible, close enough to “kiss” with a soft clink.
Bocce is a homonym of baci, the Italian word for kiss. It’s the easy, breezy version of curling, for all you cool pants enthusiasts.
In our family, we don’t bother with most of the official rules—calling throws, setting exact boundaries, or marking bocce. We just throw the balls, see where they end up, and the team that gets nine points first wins.
Though official games are often played on gravel, sand or clay courts, our family’s bocce tradition has always worked perfectly in our long, rectangular backyard. The slight dips, bumps and ridges beneath the grass make the game challenging even for those who’ve been playing for decades.
It’s hard to figure out how I’m so good at bocce when the last time I went bowling without bumpers, I bowled an eight. An eight!!
But I partially attribute my skill to the authentic Italian bocce set passed down through the family to my all-thumbs hands.
The soothing weight of the bocce balls, the size that’s just right for my small paws to grip without straining, and the satisfying kiss of the bocce makes it a comfortable ritual rather than an athletic competition. I’m relaxed when I play, and maybe that’s why I don’t fail half as often.
Possibly the best part about bocce is because you only need one hand to throw the ball, and can use your feet to measure any disputed distances as well as nudge the bocce back to the line of play after each round, your other hand is free to hold a drink.
Usually a beer bottle or wine stem gets the place of honor in our summer games. But listening to the balls clack together, so reminiscent of ice in a glass, during our most recent bocce marathons on Cape Cod inspired me to create a cocktail in honor of the game.
Though most modern bocce sets come in the Italian flag colors of red and green with a white jack ball, my vintage set sports the old-school red and black.
So the following recipe blends the bitterness of the luminously red Italian liqueur Campari with an equally glowing but sweet blackberry syrup.
Make extra syrup if you’ve got berries to spare; it keeps in the fridge for impromptu single-serving cocktails or as a striking mix-in for lemonade, iced tea or seltzer.
I’m not promising that this blackberry Campari cocktail will improve your bocce game. Drinking the whole pitcher might have the opposite effect, in fact.
But if you do happen to win your next informal backyard tournament thanks to this pretty red tonic, don’t forget to send a kiss my way. It’s the proper Italian thing to do.
- 6 ounces blackberries
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup Campari
- 1 liter plain seltzer
- Reserve about 1/4 cup blackberries for garnish.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the remaining berries, sugar, and water over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally as the sugar dissolves and the berries soften.
- Pour the berries and syrup through a mesh strainer into a bowl; you should have approximately 1 1/2 cups syrup. Cool to room temperature.
- Fill a 2- to 3-quart pitcher with ice.
- Stir in the syrup, Campari, and seltzer.
- Float blackberries in the pitcher or each guest's glass, if desired.
Make the syrup up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated in a sealable jar until ready to mix and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: .75 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 137Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 0g