I attended the first ever Cynar cocktail competition the other night at the Trump Soho (which is nowhere as tacky as you'd expect!) I took a friend who'd never experienced the Italian aperitivo that's made from a blend of artichoke leaves and herbs infused in an alcohol base. He declared all five entries to be delicious, and I'm not sure how much of his response came from how good the cocktails were (all very good) and how much from the uncommonly harmonious combination of savory and sweet the spirit acheives. Both, probably. The big surprise to me was how well the spirit mixes--5 cocktails, 5 varied approaches, and I daresay 5 complete successes. And, for the most part, quite easy to make at home with some simple prep. I was also reminded of Kirk Estopinal of Cure in New Orlean's and his sumptuous "The Search for Delicious". That's below, and below that is the complete list of entrants in the Cynar contest, with recipes.
The Search for Delicious
2 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
15-21 drops of lemon juice
6 dashes Regan's bitters
2 pinches sea salt
5 swaths of lemon peel
Start with one "baker's" pinch of salt in a rocks glass. Add the Cyanr and briefly stir. Add the Punt e Mes, bitters, lemon juice and ice. Stir briefly to incorporate. Taste, looking for only the faintest hint of salt. If the drink tastes salty, throw out your first attempt and adjust your salt levels. When the salt level is correct, express the oil from five swatch of lemon peel onto teh sruface of teh cocktail, dropping one in along the side of teh galss, skin side facing in. An 1/8 rim of salt will allow your guest to experiment with a few salty sips. Making the following sips pleasantly sweet, which will not make your brain hurt.
IL MIO RAGAZZO (MY ITALIAN BOYFRIEND) Pictured above, and winner of First Place, created by Tina Michelle Braunstein, Empire Rooftop, NYC. Winner selected by party guests.)
1 oz Martin Miler's Gin.
1 oz Trader Joe's orange, mango, peach juice.
2 dashes Regan's Orange bitters.
Splash Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice.
Sicilian sea salted cucumber (for garnish)
Stir over ice everything but the garnish = the Cynar, the gin, the 2 juices and the bitters. Then serve straight up in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cucumber wheel salted with sicilian sea salt, floating on top.
COMPLETE LISTING OF RECIPES AFTER THE JUMP
BITTER SUNSET1.5 oz. Cynar
0.5oz Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
0.75oz. Pure Cranberry
1oz. Fresh grapefruit juice
1oz. Fresh orange juice
Shake, strain into highball over crushed ice; garnish with mint sprig.
Raphael Reyes, Yerba Buena Perry, NYC
ITALIAN CHERRY FLIP
1 1/2 oz. Cynar aperitif liquor
3/4 oz.Pernod absinthe
1/2 ginger syrup
3muddled cherries per drink
Garnish:2dashes of bitter truth chocolate mole bitters
In a Boston shaker muddle the cherries,then add the other ingredients
and ice,shaking well. Then strain into a coupe and dash the bitters over
James Menite, Fornino Restaurant, Brooklyn
1oz Rhum Clement Premier Canne Rum
.25oz Fresh Lime Juice
.25oz Rich Demerara Sugar Syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
.25oz Green Chartreus
Big Lush Mint Sprig
In a mixing glass add Fresh Lime Juice, Rich Demerara Simple Syrup,
Green Chartreuse, Cynar, and Rhum Clement Premier Canne Rum. Shake and
strain with Kold Draft ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with a
large ice cube or ice ball. Garnish with a large Lush Mint Sprig
Justin James Noel, Empire Rooftop Lounge & Contemporary Cocktails Inc., NYC
3/4 ounce Cynar
2 ounce Oxley English Dry Gin
3 1" squares of fresh red bell, peeled
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce turbinado syrup
Preparation: In a mixing glass muddle bell pepper and add remaining ingredients. Fill with ice and shake aggressively. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish: Ring of red bell pepper.
Nic Hirsch, Bartender at Cellar Bar at Andaz 5th Avenue