Cynar: The Artichoke-Based Amaro Perfect for Any Occasion

If you haven’t already been using Cynar to elevate your cocktails, pair with your favorite dishes, or enjoy at events from informal to upscale, you’re forgiven — not everyone automatically equates an artichoke liqueur with versatility. But we’re here to get you caught up and help you explore some of the myriad ways Cynar (pronounced “chee-NAHR”) can be shared, savored, and enjoyed.

Cynar’s name comes from cynarin, an acid found in artichokes that is said to aid digestion — which makes this a great pre- or post-meal quaff. It stands out from the amaro crowd for its unique bittersweet flavor with earthy, savory, and slightly vegetal undertones. But even though there’s a picture of an artichoke boldly emblazoned on the bottle, it certainly doesn’t taste like a liquid artichoke. So where does its distinct flavor come from? That’s a well-kept secret. All we can tell you is that Cynar, which first launched in Italy in 1952, contains 13 herbs and botanicals — one of which, as the world knows, is artichokes.

Cynar 101: Getting Started

So how does one enjoy this one-of-a-kind libation? Well, the best way for newbies to start (and it’s pretty delish for experts, too) is by sipping it on its own, with nothing but a glass and an ice cube for company. Experience it in all its complex glory — the bitter, the sweet, the savory, the herbaceous, the vegetal, the … well, you get the point. It’s like nothing you’ve tried before, and yet it works ridiculously well in a whole host of other drinks. And the great thing about it is that you don’t have to play mixologist and invent complicated cocktails for it.

Cynar works brilliantly as a substitute or addition in some of today’s most popular cocktails. A great place to start is with a cocktail that capitalizes on Cynar’s Italian roots, the Cynar Spritz. Simply top two parts Cynar with Prosecco and a splash of sparkling soda water. Finish it off with zest from your favorite citrus for a bright, eclectic take on a classic. Use it in place of vermouth, or in addition to it, for a distinctive twist on a Manhattan. With bourbon, the bitter and savory flavors play off the whiskey’s vanilla notes; Cynar’s sweetness complements a spicy rye. Win-win! Subbing it out for vermouth in modern bar classics like the Boulevardier (a Negroni variation) and the Paper Plane is also a tasty and simple cocktail hack.

Pairing Cynar With Food

There’s no need to limit Cynar to cocktail hour. Its herbs and botanicals serve to aid digestion, and the amaro pairs beautifully with a host of dishes across the culinary spectrum, from casual to uber-fancy. So there’s really no excuse not to have a bottle handy for mealtimes, where it’s a perfect alternative to wine.

The next time you’re having friends over, bring out the Cynar alongside the charcuterie. Its sweeter elements play nice with salty, fatty meats like salami and mortadella, while its bitter elements complement cheese across the spectrum, from hard, milder cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano to gooey, luscious Bries. Go bold and enjoy Cynar alongside, or in place of, wine and cocktails with dinner, especially when the menu involves fatty meats like lamb or flavorful, gamey dishes such as venison or rabbit.

Artichokes with dessert? Um, no thanks. Cynar with dessert? Yes, please! This liqueur pairs magically with a host of sweet treats. Sip it while nibbling dark chocolate for an elegant end to any meal — the bitter and sweet elements of both the chocolate and the Cynar play off each other so well it’s like they were created to pair together. Match it up with a buttery fruit tart (think berries, plums, even rhubarb) and watch the sparks fly. And for some warm-weather fun, make the ultimate adult snow cone by pouring Cynar over crushed ice. Sophisticated, decadent, a little goofy — a winning combo for sure.

The Best Place to Enjoy Cynar

Cynar pairs with all sorts of food and drink, so it’s not surprising that it’s a key supporting player for all sorts of fun, Cynar-friendly occasions. Bring it to your next picnic to sip alongside meats, cheeses, and crusty bread.

Throw an Italian-themed party with Cynar front and center, and raise a glass while spinning some vintage opera or busting out your signature moves to Italo disco faves — while wearing your favorite Italian designer duds, of course. Or just kick back, relax, and elevate your espresso with a spot of Cynar for a one-of-a-kind taste sensation.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more informal, Cynar’s right there with you. Have a bottle handy at your next pizza party. Savory, cheesy pizza and Cynar are total besties, especially when toppings like Italian sausage or pepperoni are in the mix.

Cynar is a spirit for all seasons. Cynar highballs with club soda or sparkling mineral water and plenty of ice are essential at your next pool party, while on a chilly, two-sweater night, there’s nothing better than cozying up by the fire with a glass of everyone’s favorite artichoke liqueur.

Now that we’ve given you a primer on all the settings in which Cynar can star, the cocktails in which it shines, the foods it can elevate, and the ways you can enjoy it, isn’t it time you got in on the action? It’s as easy as picking up a bottle. You can’t miss it — it’s the one with the artichoke on the label. To pick up a bottle for yourself, click here.

This article is sponsored by Cynar.