Cynar: the Moxie of Booze

In the 1970s I remember seeing ads on Manhattan buses for Cynar, the Artichoke Apertif. Big garish Mussolini typography with an alien looking artichoke on the label. “Who in their right mind would drink artichoke liquor?”

A couple years ago, while dining with master ThinkPad designer Richard Sapper, he mentioned his preference for a taste of Cynar. I asked the waiter who was totally confused and eventually went to the bar and asked the bartender if he had any.

“Arti-what?” he asked.

It's good for you

As an ex-bartender in the alcoholically sophisticated bar-city of San Francisco, I was exposed at an early age to some weird stuff like Fernet Branca (easily one of the more strange digestifs) and 150 proof Chartreuse. But never had I tasted Cynar until last month in Italy while on Dave’s Excellent Adventure. I’m a total addict now, and even persuaded a highly skeptical companion that it was indeed, when served with soda and a slice of orange, one of the lbetter things in a glass after a long day of marching through Tuscan hilltowns or thwarting the amorous advances of psycho street mimes.

It’s made by Campari, who makes all sorts of Italian goodness, but I haven’t seen a bottle on a liquor store shelf… ever. I guess I could special order it, but for now I have a bottle I brought back with me.

Here’s some good recipes over at Chowhound that utilize Cynar.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

8 thoughts on “Cynar: the Moxie of Booze”

  1. An advertising claim by Cynar in the sixties or seventies was that when drunk as an aperitif it would improve the taste (or the drinker’s perception of the taste) of the food that followed because artichoke has that taste enhancing property. I have always been skeptical. Did you find that to be the case? Or don’t you remember after all that Cynar?

  2. Well called, David. Cynar is a thoroughly under-appreciated drink here in the U.S. What can you expect from a nation that prefers its veggies dowsed in cheese–if at all?

  3. Can’t beat the labels on Italian aperitivi. They make me think it’s 1935, Mussolini is still in power, and I’m catching a drink in the Milan train station. Martini & Rossi modernized its vermouth label about a year ago, regrettably. The ritual of preparing a martini will never be the same.

  4. The Cynar, is widely used and common in my country (Argentina).
    Here it is common to drink it in cocktails.
    Blend with grapefruit juice. The local baretndes make mojitos with Cynar and grapefruit soda.
    They call Julep Cynar.
    I’m glad you found Cynar.

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