Silly Americans, Artichokes Are for Drinking, Too

More
brown_cynar_4-2_lisatozzi_post.jpg

lisatozzi/flickr


To try Derek's recipe for a cocktail using Cynar, Campari, and Fernet Branca, click here, or click here for a Cynar-inspired take on a daiquiri.

It may seem absurd to say, but artichoke liqueur is just not for everyone. Cynar (pronounced something like "chee-nar") is an Italian bitter digestivo that boasts 13 different botanicals but really rests on one vegetable: the artichoke. Unless you're an old Italian woman—in which you case you don't blink at ordering a Cynar and soda—then your first impression is undoubtedly: gross. Who in their right mind would use artichokes in a drink?

I'm adventurous, but since taste one I've never truly enjoyed drinking Cynar on its own, despite enjoying many other bitter digestivos. Yet, with a little exploration, I've found that Cynar is among the most versatile of bitters, seamlessly blending with other bitters and spirits. In fact, I realize I'm among the last to see how wonderful this spirit can be in cocktails. (I should definitely give credit where credit is due: despite many examples of using bitter liquors as a base, the definitive movement for this came in Rogue Cocktails, a book created by bartenders Kirk Estopinal and Maksym Pazuniak in the summer of 2009.)

My first breakthrough was an unlikely combination. I saw Cynar, Campari, and Fernet Branca sitting on the shelf and thought to myself that there is no way that I could combine all three in a cocktail. Each one is so distinct: Campari is well known, but, for those new to Fernet Branca, it's a densely flavored spirit that includes saffron, bay leaves and peppermint oil. You could call these with Cynar the "super group" of Italian bitter digestivos.

After tasting the three together in different combinations, I realized each one had a complementary thread—the bitter orange of Campari melded well with the minty, eucalyptus-like flavor of Fernet and the creamy texture of Cynar, finishing with warm spice notes and an intense bitterness. Rather then clashing, they played together well, muting the harsher aspects of each and accentuating the qualities I liked.

Nevertheless, there was still the abiding bitterness that needed reigning in. I used juice from Cara Cara oranges, a sweeter version of the navel orange with a pink color and sweet pink grapefruit-like flavor, and added lemon juice and simple syrup made from turbinado sugar. I used grilled orange slices and chocolate mint as a garnish, and dubbed it the Three Bitters Cocktail. Cue "Feel Like Making Love" when you pour this drink, because it starts soft and delivers a powerful chorus.

Not stopping there, I loaded up my shaker for another round, this time using Cynar and dark rum. I dubbed this the Cynar Daiquiri, with lemon juice and simple syrup. Refreshing, delicious, and powerful.

Adam Bernbach, the mixologist for Proof , found similar success by blending Cynar, Chinato, maple syrup, cream, and egg yolk in The Shiner cocktail, and below are many more examples of Cynar in cocktails. Virginia-based bartender and sommelier Todd Thrasher, and Team USA recently won the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand with the improbably named "I Have Too Much Thyme on My Hands at This Point in My Life." I recommend grabbing a bottle of Cynar and trying your own hand at an artichoke cocktail.

Recipe: Three Bitters Cocktail
Recipe: The Getaway

Other recipes and drink resources:
The Trident Cocktail
The Art of Choke
Cynar Flip
I Have Too Much Thyme on My Hands at This Point in My Life

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In