No one understands the intersection of drinking and culture quite like the Italians do. From morning to night, there’s a drink for every moment. Go ahead: Drink Italian. It’s a way of life.
One of Italy’s most beloved amari, Cynar® features a plump artichoke on its iconic red, white and green label. The liqueur, pronounced “CHEE-nahr,” is a staple of Italian after-dinner culture, and there’s a lot to know about its deep, dark, sweetly bitter taste (starting with the fact that it doesn’t actually taste like artichoke). Dave Karraker of Campari America is here to tell you more.
“Cynar is actually one of Campari America’s youngest amari, just 65 years old, but it’s definitely our most distinctive,” says Karraker. Even its history is eye-opening: Venetian entrepreneur and philanthropist Angelo Dalle Molle invented it in Italy in 1952, packaging it with the slogan “Cynar, against the stress of modern life.” (The father of six children by six women, Angelo probably knew what he was talking about.)
Dalle Molle was a big fan of his invention in part because “he was a bit of a playboy and had heard the unfounded claim that artichoke has aphrodisiac properties,” says Karraker. The bittersweet liqueur’s name derives from one of its ingredients—a property found in artichoke called “cynarin.” It’s “believed to aid in digestion and modify taste buds to make food or drink subsequently consumed taste sweeter,” says Karraker.
The spirit, which comes in its original 35-proof and as the more potent Cynar 70, contains 13 infused herbs and plants that remain a closely guarded secret. Both have “a distinctive herbal quality supported by flavors of dried fruit and rounded by caramel smoothness,” says Karraker, plus “a pleasant woody and caramel bitter taste.”
Here’s one of Tucson, Ariz., bartender Laura Kepner-Adney’s favorite ways to enjoy Cynar—a smoky, bittersweet cocktail you’ll love and can enjoy before or after your meal. “Cynar brings a fun and cheerful element to the smoky scotch and vibrant key lime,” says Kepner-Adney. “It’s a delightful lower-proof way to liven up a spirit-forward cocktail. I usually recommend Cynar 70 on a rock or just chilled and neat. The complexity stands on its own.”
(Created by bartender Laura Kepner-Adney)
1 oz Cynar liqueur
1 oz Islay scotch
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Fresh Key lime juice
1 Dash Angostura bitters
1 Pinch sea salt
Garnish: Lemon zest
Add all the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake.
Strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with lemon zest.