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.
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.