Warm weather cocktails can tend toward the fruity and flowery, and with good reason. I'm at that point after a New York City winter where I'd give my best bourbon for a pint of decent strawberries. But spring is also a great time to play around with bitter liqueurs like Cynar. Just like the bitter greens that start showing up at greenmarkets this time of year, Cynar is a delicious palate refresher. Although it's often consumed alone or with a splash of soda, it can make also cocktails much more interesting.
Got a bottle on hand? One way to get started is to use it like you would Campari: try a Cynar Negroni and you'll see what I mean. Want to keep exploring? Here are three Cynar cocktails to mix up at home for a savory, refreshing toast to spring.
Cynar is a perfect stand-in for Fernet Branca, another darling of the amari family, in a Toronto cocktail. What's a Toronto? A simple whiskey cocktail—inspired by the Manhattan—that's made with rye, Fernet, simple syrup, and ice. Like Fernet, the bitter, vegetal taste of Cynar is a perfect foil for the sweet rye. However, I find Cynar to be a bit less assertive than Fernet, so if you're not a full-on bitter fiend yet this is a great place to start.
The Cynar Toronto is absolutely still a rye-forward drink, but the Cynar comes in at the end and adds an earthy, peppery finish. That magic thing when each ingredient becomes better by virtue of being combined with the other happens in this cocktail.
The Bitter Mimosa
As much as I dislike the practice of assigning genders to stuff we put in our faces ("This is total man food"), it's hard to escape the mimosa's reputation as a "girly" drink. It's sweet, it's pretty, it's bubbly, it's fruity, and it goes with brunch. The concept of the mimosa is solid—of course orange juice should have Champagne in it on the weekends—but, I'm here to tell you that there's serious potential for the mimosa outside of girly drink territory. With a base of fresh pink grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, this drink gets much more interesting with a healthy dose of Cynar.
The Honey Bee is a pretty straightforward rum sour that utilizes honey as the sweetener—it's just the sort of cocktail that gets me excited. I love when something like honey, which is usually in the background in terms of flavor—gets to step up and really shine. Keeping the winning Honey Bee formula intact, I added Cynar as an experiment. Cynar's tangy side shines when combined with the lemon, and its botanicals go nicely with the honey (while it cuts some of the sweetness of the rum-and-honey mix.) While the Honey Bee can be a bit tidy, this drink has plenty going on.