If you know your way around an Aperol Spritz, are acquainted with Campari and could sip Negronis all day (well, as much as propriety allows), perhaps it’s time to meet the next-level amaro: Cynar. (Pronounced chee-NAR, not SY-nar). Another classic Italian liqueur, it’s made with a number of botanicals, chief among them the artichoke, whose image graces its bright red label. There’s nothing particularly artichoke-y about the flavor, although its woodsy, earthy characteristics might remind you of one.
Like all amari, (Italian herbal liqueurs) Cynar is a balance of sweet and bitter, although this guy is further toward the bitter end than most. Swap it for Campari in a Negroni, sip it simply from a tiny glass at the end of a meal or try it in one of these three simple cocktails—all guaranteed to sweeten you toward the particular taste of bitter.
Easy: Cynar and Soda
A good aperitif is lively, bitter and refreshing; Cynar with soda ticks all of those boxes perfectly. It’s vibrantly flavored but quite low in alcohol, so two before dinner won’t derail your evening. We like it with a lemon wedge garnish squeezed in there.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1½ ounces of Cynar with 4 ounces of soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Intermediate: La Alcachofa
Good tequila—probably not the kind you shot in college—often has grassy or vegetal flavors to it, which are echoed perfectly in Cynar. This stirred Manhattan-like cocktail, made with just two ingredients, is as easy as it is sophisticated. Stir well and sip slowly.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 1 ounce of Cynar and 2 ounces of reposado tequila (we’re using Roca Patrón Reposado). Stir them together until very well chilled, at least 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel, twisting it over the surface of the drink first to release its citrus oils.
Advanced: Presbyterian’s Revenge
One of our favorite cocktails ever, this one-two punch of Scotch and Cynar gets lightened up with lemon and a big twist of grapefruit. It’s an incredibly complex drink, given how simple it really is: just four ingredients shaken together.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of blended Scotch (we used Cutty Sark Prohibition), ¾ ounce of Cynar, ¼ ounce of lemon juice and ¼ ounce of simple syrup (equal parts of hot water and sugar, dissolved). Dash in orange bitters if you have them. Shake that hard, then strain it into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with ½ ounce of club soda and garnish with a big twist of grapefruit, squeezing it over the top of the drink to spritz its oils over the surface.