One of my greatest discoveries this year was an appreciation for bitter apÃ©ritifs. It all started with a glass of Cynar, a bitter—but at the same time sweet—Italian liqueur made from artichoke leaves. According to the bottle, Cynar is traditionally enjoyed neat or on the rocks, possibly with an orange slice. I’ve had it this way, and it took me a very long time to get to the bottom of the glass. Cynar begins sweet, but quickly presents a strong, lasting bitterness that dissuades one from taking another sip immediately.
Portland’s great, new restaurant/bar, Beaker and Flask, features a lot of drinks using Cynar, along with other bitter liqueurs. Their cocktail list is very eye-opening, with much less citrus and sugar than any bar you’ve probably been in, and bitterness is often a delicious feature of their concoctions. I’m really not a fan of much sweetness or citrus in beverages, so I love what Kevin and his team do. It’s led to me picking up a few more European liqueurs for our home bar.
Last night, I built a cocktail around Cynar and Becherovka, and arrived at a surprisingly good recipe that I’ve dubbed the Man Walks Into A Bar. It has a slightly bitter, woody flavor with a light sweetness. It’s an excellent pre-dinner drink, with an elegant, light walnut color. This recipe makes 2 at once, for sharing with a barmate or your bartender.
The Man Walks Into A Bar:
1.5 oz each of Cynar, Becherovka, Limoncello and Vodka
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Angustura Bitters in each glass
Place two dashes Angustura Bitters each in two cocktail glasses.
Combine Cynar, Becherovka, Limoncello, Vodka and Lillet Blanc in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake well and strain into glasses.