Yes, I enjoy booze made from artichokes. Cynar (pronounced chee-nar) is an Italian liqueur that can be found in many Pittsburgh bars. It is made from 13 different herbs and plants, but the most notable is the artichoke.
The bittersweet liqueur has been around since the 1950s and it’s actually a relative newcomer into the world of amaros, aka bitter Italian liqueur. Campari was first produced in 1904 and Fernet-Branca has been enjoyed since 1845.
I got my introduction at Tina’s in Bloomfield. Little Italy Days is a time of frustration for Bloomfield residents like me. The event has devolved from a quaint festival celebrating Italian heritage to people puking in the streets and out-of-state vendors hawking chicken fingers and funnel cakes.
Luckily, Tina’s offered me a reprieve: a special Little Italy Days cocktail called the Bitter Guiseppe, made of Cynar, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and lemon. Every since that bitter, sweet, sour and refreshing cocktail touched my lips, I have been hooked.
At first, Cynar might scare some drinkers. It has a blackish-brown color with a slightly syrupy consistency. It doesn’t actually taste like artichokes; it’s herby, but not too dry or overpowering. Sure, the giant artichoke on the bottle doesn’t exactly scream “refreshing cocktail,” but the slight bitterness quickly moves to sweetness on your tongue, and the consistency allows this effect to happen multiple times before a smooth swallow.
Try it with a light pilsner, it will go down smooth. It’s also a digestivo, and will help you digest a heavy meal. Getting drunk and feeling less bloated, sign me up!
And Cynar isn’t just a vehicle to enjoy some bitter, sweet, and sour flavors. Some people even mix it with coconut cream and pineapple juice to make a Cynar Colada. If I find a way to serve this out of a hollowed-out artichoke, I will become a legend.
Find Cynar at your most local bars or at Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores.
1oz sweet vermouth
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 dashes orange bitters
6 drops lemon juice
Pour over ice and stir.