Welcome to Glass Half Full, a monthly column from drinks editor Alex Delany about what he’s drinking (and loving) right now.
Here’s the short sell on Cynar: It’s an Italian amaro that’s been around forever. It’s loaded with flavor. It’s low-ABV. It’s versatile. It’s consistent. And it’s accessible across the USA. Cool? You’re a Cynar (pronounced chee-nar) fan now? Awesome. You can leave and go buy a bottle, if you’d like. Or you could stay for a minute while I wax poetic about why I always keep a stash at home.
Developed in Venice in the 1950s, the main flavor of note here is artichoke, which gives it a vegetal bitterness that’s balanced by notes of green sugar cane and raisins. It falls pretty solidly in the middle of the bitter-sweet amaro spectrum; not crazy bitter, not crazy sweet. Cynar is an amaro for all seasons, if you will, which makes it especially perfect right now, when I’m looking to use the contents of my bar in as many different ways as possible.
That balance is part of the reason I find it so flexible and easy to use. I’ll substitute it in place of sweet vermouth in cocktails like the Negroni, Americano, or the Manhattan for a deeper, more bitter dimension. I love it in a Lil’ Ripper and a proper spritz. The first time I dropped an ounce into a Budweiser I understood what a revelation felt like. But when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just pour a couple fingers in a rocks glass with a large ice cube and add a slice of citrus peel and call it a day. However I serve it, though, it’s rare that I’ll just have one: At just 16.5% ABV (compared to your average whiskey or tequila’s 40-45%), Cynar is good for drink after drink.
With all the mileage that this amaro sees in my house, shouldn’t I be worried about blowing through my supply right now? Nope, I’m all set. Those geniuses over at the Cynar factory knew to package it in a 1 liter bottle.