It’s lighter and drier than Cynar, but equally intense.
Carciofi Cocktails
Credit: Carey Jones

Artichoke… in cocktails? Sounds odd, tastes delicious. Any fan of Cynar — a classic Italian amaro — knows that artichoke can be an awfully compelling element of a liqueur. And now an American brand has tried their own hand at the style, with the C3 Carciofo, from D.C. distillery Don Ciccio & Figli.

We would never say we like the C3 more than Cynar, as that’d be something akin to cocktail blasphemy. What we can say is that it’s one of our favorite recent discoveries. It’s bitter, earthy, and incredibly complex, made from three types of artichokes and 18 botanicals. And whereas Cynar is distinctly rich, C3 is lighter and drier, while the flavor is equally intense, giving this liqueur a character all its own in cocktails. Here are three that we love.

Easy: Carciofo & Pompelmo

Carciofo and Pompelmo
Credit: Carey Jones

Bitter vegetal liqueur, tart bitter fruit — pairing grapefruit and the C3 is a no-brainer. This is the kind of bone-dry, character-filled aperitif that we crave before dinner. In fact, we might go make another right now…

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine an ounce of C3, two ounces of fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, and two ounces of club soda. Stir briefly and garnish with a few grapefruit half-moons.

Intermediate: C3 & Gin

C3 & Gin Cocktail
Credit: Carey Jones

Fans of bitter botanicals, look no further — complex C3 and gin work together beautifully. Here’s a cocktail where the garnish is all-important. Citrus is relatively common, but we love the unexpected savory addition of a good green olive. After you finish the cocktail, pop the booze-soaked olive in your mouth; so good.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce and a half of C3, an ounce and a half of gin, and a quarter-ounce simple syrup. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with a half-ounce of soda, stir briefly, and garnish with a big lemon twist, an orange slice, and an olive.

Advanced: Old Cuban-Italian

Old Cuban-Italian
Credit: Carey Jones

An “Old Cuban” unites dark rum, mint, lime, and sparkling wine, an offbeat take on a mojito. It’s a beautiful drink, but can run quite sweet. C3 slices through to give this version a bitter backbone, while meshing well with rich dark rum.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of dark rum (Mount Gay Black Barrel is great here), 3/4 ounce of fresh lime juice, a half-ounce of CB, a half-ounce of simple syrup, and 10 mint leaves. Shake up until well-chilled, then double-strain (through a fine mesh strainer, as well as through the shaker’s own strainer) into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with an ounce of sparkling wine, and garnish with a big mint sprig.