Cynar for my Valentine!

February 14, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Day so I need to make something romantic, and nothing says Valentine’s Day like artichoke hearts.

Er, let’s that again. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like an obscure, bitter, mud-brown, digestive aid.

Um, Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a fine Italian liqueur. Oh, and hearts equals Valentine’s, right?

It’s Cynar! It’s pronounced ‘chee-NARR’. I tried some in the weekend with tonic (pictured above), and loved it. The author of my ‘Encyclopedia of Wine, Beer and Spirits’ describes it as a ‘drink for the brave’ and one of the low points of his visit to Venice. In Boozehound, even Jason Wilson, who loves this stuff, calls this bitter drink an acquired taste which takes a little getting used to. Well, with that kind of publicity, I just had to try it, and a friend was good enough to bring some back for me after a trip to LA.

Naturally I approached it with some trepidation. The first sip, from the bottle didn’t leave much of an impression, except that I was surprised by its lack of bitter awfulness. Later I mixed it up with some tonic (Schweppes), crushed ice and a lemon wedge. It was wonderful! Bitter, yes, and I like that, but also sweet. And then there’s the artichokes. I don’t know what artichokes taste like, but I bet it’s not this. Cynar is very round, and fruity tasting, with a not unpleasant bitter aftertaste. The taste is deep and flavourful.

Cynar is quite low-proof, at 16.5% ABV. It is made in Italy where it is drunk both as an aperitif, and a digestif, usually on the rocks, or with soda. I read that in some parts it is drunk with orange, so I tried that too. Also very nice, but I like the tonic better. For mixing, it has recently been used as a substitute for Campari or other Aperol (Italian bitter liqueurs) in drinks like the Negroni. I have yet to try that, but am very keen.

So tonight, for Valentine’s Day (well nominally so), I mixed it with some fancy Italian lemonade. I’d been looking for this bitter Italian soda called Chinotto, which is made by San Pellegrino who make the well-known mineral water. I didn’t find it, but picked up a couple of cans of their Limonata at Jason’s. It’s a dry, sour, very delicious lemonade, and it mixed very well with the Cynar. I thought it at least the equal of tonic as a mixer, and perhaps more refreshing (but just maybe the tonic brought out the flavour a little more). My wife, on the other hand, had an expression which changed rapidly from intrigue to revulsion. Oops. But on reflection (and after mixing it up a little more) she said it was fairly good, but the unexpected bitterness reminded her of Chinese medicine and a Chinese medicine drink you get in night markets.

I, however, am hooked on this stuff and recommend it very strongly. Their advertising from the 60s is pretty cool too:


5 Responses to “Cynar for my Valentine!”

  1. Mark S. Says:

    I like their slogan: “”Cynar: contro il logorio della vita moderna” (Cynar: against the strains/ravages of modern life).

  2. theboolion Says:

    Thanks Mark. I guess that’s why they’re always chilling out and drinking it in the middle of the road in their advertising then. There’s quite a few more adverts on YouTube, some are quite funny even if you don’t understand Italian.

  3. […] Cynar is a bitter liqueur that I love, but is sadly unavailable in Taipei. It also makes a great Manhattan variation. […]

  4. […] (sadly unavailable in Taiwan) is the fantastic artichoke liqueur that I’ve written about before. It makes this Negroni rich and herbaceous. Another […]

  5. […] depth and body. To try and add this without sweetness, I turned to my favourite artichoke liqueur, Cynar, and a bit of Fees Brothers Rhubarb Bitters, a flavour that I am very fond of. The resulting […]

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