The range of amari or bitters in Italy is extensive. Certainly before I came to this country I had not heard of many and I wonder how many outside of Italy are aware of these somewhat different tipples, such as Cynar.
Indeed, how many know of Cynar? Not that many I imagine, and even fewer may know that it is produced by that most famous of Italian drink producers – Campari.
This after-dinner drink or ‘digestivo’, the name to which a number of mildly alcoholic drinks are referred to here in Italy, is made with a vegetable which is often to be found on Italian plates.
Those curious to know about this week’s Friday Food and Wine Feature might like to read on.
Cynar – Artichoke Based Bitter
If you have not already guessed from the image above, Cynar is based on artichoke. The question you may be asking is: ‘Can you actually taste the artichoke?’, and in all honesty I have to reply that I don’t really think so. This is perhaps because this bitter also contains some 13 other herbs and plants, although just what this unlucky combination of other ingredients is must remain a mystery. It’s probably a trade secret or something like that anyway.
However do not let the absence of artichoke taste put you off, as it is not at all bad. The taste is pleasant if a little on the sweet side for something calling itself a bitter. For those who are not keen on cognac it could be an alternative, and it’s not really that strong at 33 proof. Still, it is strong enough to cause drivers problems if they go over the top and over indulge.
In Italy Cynar can be drunk with ice as an aperitif, or as a form of cocktail diluted with particularly fizzy water (‘seltz’ in Italian) and embellished with a slice of lemon or orange. Coke, bitter lemon and tonic water may also be added. Apparently in some areas of Italy a dash of Cynar is added to white wine, which maybe something worth trying.
Oh, and I do have a bottle of Cynar in the house at the moment, and you can blame this blog for that! I shall continue to purchase some of the more interesting looking Italian drinks and write a few words about them from time to time.
Try it – You Might Like it!
As with most of these curious looking beverages, you really need to try them to see whether they appeal, and then there is the curiosity factor. I’m sure bringing out a bottle of this after a meal will spark conversation, and may even lead to one or two converts.
As I mentioned at the start, I had never heard of Cynar before I came to Italy, and I certainly do not remember seeing it on supermarket shelves or in off licences. Now, however, Bizrate.co.u sells this drink online in the UK, and I’m sure it can be found in other countries too.
Actually, you can read a little more about Cynar in this blog post entitled: Cynar: The Intoxicologist Is In blog, This post, aside from giving a few ideas as to creating cocktails with Cynar, indicates that this bitter sweet drink can be located in the USA too.
As a matter of interest, Cynar has been around in Italy for a long time and was first advertised on the TV here back in the 60s, and was promoted in 2007 by Italian group Elio e le storie tese, who have been mentioned on Blog from Italy before. Here, for example.
Oddly enough, outside of la Bel Paese there is a Canadian company which uses the name Cynar to sell very Italian looking aperitif style drinks. The company, which goes by the name of Cynar Drinks Ltd, is located in Ontario, but does not appear to have anything to do with the Italian Cynar’s mother-brand – Campari.
Perhaps someone can tell my what the Canadian Cynar is like!
Tell Me What You Think
I would also like to know if anyone else has tried the Italian Cynar and to hear what they made of it. And if they can taste the artichoke!
Oh and if you need to entertain Italian guests, then having a bottle of this on hand may create favourable impression! It’d make an original item to add to your Christmas gifts list too, especially if you like the idea of giving someone something that is a little bit ‘alternative’.
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