Of all the Italian amaro bottles that line back bars, Cynar may be one of the most beloved by bartenders. It’s also one of the most mystifying. Artichoke is the only known ingredient in its 13-ingredient recipe, but the bittersweet liqueur doesn’t have a perceptible artichoke taste. It does, however, offer an aromatic and slightly vegetal profile that works well in a range of cocktails, from Negroni variations to decadent Flips.
Cynar has a relatively short history compared to centuries-old amaro brands like Averna and Fernet-Branca. Named for cynarine, an acid found in artichokes that is believed to aid in digestion, the carciofo (artichoke) amaro was launched by Venetian businessman and philanthropist Angelo Dalle Molle in 1952 with a recipe that includes 13 ingredients, including artichoke. It grew in popularity over the next decade thanks to a prominent series of advertisements featuring actor Ernesto Calindri and the tagline Contro il logorio della vita moderna (“Against the strain of modern life”). Gruppo Campari purchased Cynar in 1995, and has since handled manufacturing and distribution of the brand.
The dark-brown and medium-bodied amaro was popularized in the United States during the craft cocktail revival of the early 2000s, when it started appearing in mixed drinks from bartenders like Toby Maloney and Audrey Saunders at renowned New York City bars Milk & Honey and Pegu Club. A bottle of Cynar is relatively low-proof, with an ABV of 16.5%, but in 2015, Gruppo Campari launched Cynar 70, a higher-proof bottling with a 35% ABV.
Like most amari, Cynar is traditionally sipped as a pre-meal aperitivo or post-dinner digestivo. While delicious on its own, it can be topped with soda water or mixers like orange juice and tonic water. The flagship bottling’s aromatic profile and low proof also make it ideal for cocktail use. Cynar can easily take the place of Campari in classic drinks like the Negroni or the Boulevardier, adding a softer and smoother profile, but its potential is limitless.
Here are seven of the best cocktail recipes to make with this storied herbal amaro.
A classic Cynar Flip is made with its namesake amaro, simple syrup, and an entire egg. These ingredients work together to create a rich, creamy, and gently bittersweet cocktail. This extra-fragrant variation from bartender Jayce Kadyschuk splits the base between Cynar, Canadian whisky, and Cointreau. A homemade clove simple syrup and specialty bitters heighten the drink’s aromatic profile.
Created by bartender Chad Solomon in 2006 at New York City’s Milk & Honey, this spirit-forward drink is one of several variations on the classic Brooklyn, which combines rye whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon. Solomon says he was partly inspired by the lack of availability of Amer Picon in the United States to create his riff, which swaps the French bitter liqueur for Cynar.
Created by Philadelphia bartender Paul Dellevigne, this cocktail calls for equal parts Scotch whisky, Cynar, and sweet vermouth. The results bear similarities to both the Rob Roy (scotch, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters) and the Boulevardier (bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth).
Bartender and activist Ashtin Berry created this savory-sweet riff on the Dark ‘n Stormy while working as beverage director at the Tokyo Record Bar in New York City. She swaps rum for the low-proof Japanese distilled spirit shochu, adds yuzu juice for bright acidity, sweetens her drink with an umami-rich white miso syrup, and tops the mixture with club soda. A Cynar float replaces the usual dark rum.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Beverage director and sommelier Liz Martinez created this smoky and herbaceous sour when she was working at The Purple Pig in Chicago. The complex yet refreshing drink combines mezcal, Green Chartreuse, Cynar, lemon juice, and an egg white.
Named for the species of hulking carnivores in Star Wars, this Boulevardier riff was created by bartender Timothy Miner of The Long Island Bar in Brooklyn, New York. His version swaps red bitter liqueur Campari for the vegetal notes of Cynar, which is combined with an overproof bourbon and sweet vermouth. Two dashes of mole bitters round out the drink and add a touch of smoke and chocolate.
This smoky and aromatic Negroni variation from bartender Shawn Soole mixes Islay scotch, Cynar, and bianco vermouth. Although none of the original ingredients remain, Soole’s combination is true to the flavor profile of a classic Negroni, which he says is “strong, balanced, bitter, with a sweetness from the vermouth.”