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The Dusty Bottle: Cynar, The Artichoke Liqueur

By Paul Leddy in Food on Apr 5, 2013 6:00PM

The Artichoke Sour

You ever wonder whether some of those strange old bottles at the back of bars ever get used? We asked some of our favorite bartenders and mixologists to identify a bottle of spirits that seemingly never got used - the dusty bottle. Then, we asked them to create a great drink with that neglected spirit.

As friendly as Chicago bartenders are, they definitely like things bitter. Amaro-style liqueurs have been appearing on cocktail lists with more regularity in Chicago over the last few years. One amaro that we have seen being used more in cocktails is Cynar (chee-NAHR).

Cynar is desirable in cocktail making because its flavor profile offers a slight honey-sweet beginning that eases into a bitter, herbal finish. With a relatively low alcohol content, Cynar adds flavor and complexity to cocktails without a strong alcohol presence. If you look on the bottle, there is a picture of an artichoke. That is because the bitterness (and name) in Cynar comes from cynani, the healthy, bitter chemical found in the artichoke.

For the home bar enthusiast wondering what you can do with that bottle of Cynar, you can do what the Italians do and drink Cynar over ice or neat as an aperitif. Or you can try your hand at a very easy recipe from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith from Hearty Restaurant.

Steve and Dan recently published a book called The New Old Bar: Classic Cocktails and Salty Snacks from The Hearty Boys. The goal of the book is to make the cocktail ingredients and recipes to be accessible to the home bar enthusiast.

Cynar is not usually a star player in cocktails, but Steve has made it a star. Steve was drawn to Cynar when the bottle caught his eye as he was browsing the aisles at a liquor store. After tasting it, his chef’s mind started thinking of ingredients that would pair well with it. He knew the tart lemon and a little sweetness from the simple syrup would be a good foil to the bitterness of the Cynar. Steve says that he doesn’t care for sweet drinks. “My menu is based on bitter and herbal (ingredients),” he explains. “I tell my guests that those are the flavors that will pair with their food and this is why we're looking back to these ‘dusty bottles’.”

Artichoke Sour

1 egg white
2 ounces Cynar Liqueur
1 ounce simple syrup (1:1)
.50oz fresh lemon juice
Brandied cherry flag (for garnish)

Dry shake the egg white without ice. Add the remaining ingredients and ice to the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously a second time. Strain into a double old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Serve garnished with a brandied cherry flag.

Reprinted with permission from The New Old Bar: Classic Cocktail and Salty Snacks from the Hearty Boys, by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, Agate Surrey, 2012