Put Cynar In Everything
Two cocktails that use Cynar as a base ingredient.
From time to time, I have mentioned my deep fondness for Cynar, the bittersweet, vegetal amaro that is sometimes reductively described as an artichoke liqueur. But I’ve been holding out somewhat.
The truth is that I am a Cynar obsessive, a diehard fanboy — to the point where I spent the better part of a decade playing a Dungeons & Dragons character named Cynar the Bardarian.
Yes, I’m a huge dork. Specifically, I’m a huge dork who really, really loves Cynar.
For years, I have been operating under the theory that it’s possible to make an insanely delicious Cynar-ized version of, well, maybe not quite any cocktail, but an awful lot of them. You can add Cynar to a common drink structure, or swap it in for other ingredients — and it can play almost any role in a cocktail.
I put Cynar in everything. And today I want to urge you to do the same.
The most obvious way to use Cynar is as a bitter ingredient in a Negroni-like structure, effectively as a substitute for Campari, like the Cynar Mezcal Negroni or the Midnight Marauder. But with a little bit of calibration, you can also use Cynar almost like a sweetener, effectively casting it as a somewhat-more-bitter sweet vermouth. We saw it play that sort of role in the Scorched Earth.
More intriguingly, and more importantly for today’s newsletter, you can use Cynar as a base ingredient in roles more typically reserved for spirits like whiskey or rum.
Cynar is typically cast as a character actor, a supporting player that brings a distinctive, quirky charm to a project. But it can also be the star of the show.
I think of Cynar as something like the liquor equivalent of the great, sadly departed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who could show up and deliver exposition for 10 minutes in two scenes and radically improve an otherwise conventional film, but who could also bring his strange yet wonderful presence to a leading role and simply own a movie. He was quite popular and widely respected, but he never quite became a star in the George Clooney or Brad Pitt sense. Yet whether he dominated a picture or whether he was simply a grace note, Hoffman improved every show he was in. He brought complexity and depth to his roles, yet there was also a surprising lightness to his performances, even in the most brooding productions.
That’s more or less how I think of bitter, complex, subtly sweet, surprisingly low-ABV Cynar in cocktails. It can do almost anything, if you let it.
We’ve already covered several drinks that use Cynar as a supporting player. So today we are going to look at a pair of drinks that showcase Cynar’s underutilized talents as a base ingredient — one stirred, one shaken.