Pronounced chee-NAR, the label on this beauty does not tell the full story of this unique little member of the amaro family. Front and center on the label is an artichoke, true, and yes, it does use artichokes for its distinctive flavor, but what it does not show is the bevy of other botanicals that round out the recipe. As with all amaros, Cynar is a bitter Italian liqueur related to more familiar spirits like Campari and Aperol. That alone answers the question “Well what do I do with an artichoke bitter?” since it can take their place in cocktails for a unique take on standards like the Negroni. In fact, try swapping out about half of the sweet vermouth you would use in a Manhattan for Cynar and watch what happens when the bracing herb notes of this liqueur get to play with the sweetness of a bourbon or the spiciness of a rye.
If you have had Fernet Branca before, then you are already a little familiar with the amaro family. Think of a fernet, then strip away the heavy anise and mint flavors, focusing on the bitter herbs and root spices. That will put you in the ballpark of Cynar, although it’s distinct earthy undertones are a bit hard to pin down. It is more versatile than it might first appear, so just think of anything that you would normally use a fernet for (like a Fernet and Cola, Fernet and Ginger, Fernet Flips, etc.) and substitute in this less minty, more savory liqueur for a different experience. Once you try it, you might find yourself among the growing numbers of craft-cocktail fans turning towards amaros and bitters to expand their drinking horizons.