Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Cynar, a classic Italian bitter (that works as both aperitif and digestif), is taking over your local cocktail bars. Otherwise remembered as the artichoke liqueur (among the 13 total herbs and plants that go into it), its label stands out with a green artichoke over a red background.
But don’t expect Cynar to actually taste like artichokes. It does not. Compared more often to Fernet Branca, it’s in that amaro family, most commonly drunk in Europe straight, on the rocks, with a splash of soda or even orange juice. It’s bitter just like other amari greats, with an elusive, herbal richness.
Cynar really makes a drink like the Kentucky Bubble Bath at LA’s Library Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. Without the gently bitter tinge Cynar imbues, it could easily have been a sweet and soapy bourbon/lavender cocktail. Or here in SF at The Hideout speakeasy in Dalva, Cynar is a stimulating layer in the appetite-inducing Nobody’s Dirty Business: Batavia Arrack, Bonal, Maraschino liqueur, lime, and Cynar, topped with Prosecco.
Though a European classic since released in the 1950s, Cynar has been growing in popularity in US cocktail bars the last couple years, lately reaching a fever pitch. After I decided to comment on the trend, I received an email from the USBG about an upcoming bartenders cocktail contest where Cynar is the base ingredient. No doubt about it, the “artichoke liqueur” has arrived when it has a seminar and bartender showdown surrounding it.
Try a shot of Cynar or behold it adding intriguing layers to your next cocktail.
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