Rye whiskey is really great in cocktails. Rye lends itself well to drinks more on the savory side, where its spice and herbal characteristics shine. We adapted the recipe below from the original, which appears in Savory Cocktails. It is categorized as a “fermentation cocktail” because the whiskey supposedly feeds on the sugar from the cherry juice. Science!
The Fatal Hour
2 oz. Rye whiskey
¾ oz. Cynar or other herbaceous amaro
2 dashes Chocolate bitters
1 Luxardo cherry
Combine the rye, Cynar, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Let chill for about 20 seconds, the strain into a chilled coupe. Use a bar spoon to scoop a cherry with a little bit of syrup still clinging to it. Slowly stir it into the cocktail.
This drink is bitter but well balanced. The Cynar almost steals the show, so be sure to use a higher proof whiskey to keep the Cynar in check. The chocolate bitters add silky sweetness.
Continuing our Cynar kick, we decided to try a variation of a classic whiskey sour.
Cynar Bourbon Sour
1 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Cynar
1 oz. Lemon juice
½ Egg white
¼ oz. Maraschino liqueur
¼ oz. Agave nectar
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
This cocktail is interesting because the Cynar adds more bitterness than a sour typically has, but the egg white froth helps to smooth everything out. This may be the most Cynar we’ve ever put in a cocktail (the usual amount is half an ounce or so), and we have to say we like it. The taste lingers for a while after each sip.
Inexcusably silly name aside, this cocktail from Matt Biancaniello in Imbibe is enjoyable on a sunny day and combines one of our favorite liqueurs, Cynar, with bourbon.
California Bubble Bath
2 oz. Bourbon
¾ oz. Lemon juice
¾ oz. Lavender simple syrup
½ oz. Cynar
Mix bourbon, lemon juice, and lavender syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and float the Cynar on top.
Lavender Simple Syrup
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. Sugar
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. Water
1 Tbsp. Dried lavender
Boil water in a small saucepan. Add lavender and remove from heat. Let it steep for 15 minutes, then add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved, about three minutes. Strain into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.
This is a nice, aromatic drink. Our Cynar didn’t float very well because the ice got in the way, but imagine how enticing the artichoke, lemon, and lavender aromas are together. And let’s not forget the bourbon. We used a higher proof bourbon so that it wouldn’t get lost in the other strong flavors, and it worked out well. It tastes like a more complex whiskey smash. This is a very well-balanced drink that we will return to several times throughout the warmer months.
We’ve been thinking a lot about Cynar lately and how it pairs so well with bourbon. This recipe is a variation on a manhattan, a classic bourbon cocktail.
Game Set Match
2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Cynar
½ oz. Sweet vermouth
4 dashes Bitters
2 dashes Orange bitters
Stir all ingredients together with ice for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry and lemon twist.
This cocktail is well balanced with enough bitterness to satisfy sophisticated palates. The orange bitters are the key to brightness here, and if you’d like more, feel free to dash a couple more times than called for. We used a lower proof bourbon as directed in the original recipe so that the whiskey didn’t overpower the more delicate vegetal notes of the Cynar.
This is one of those cocktails whose list of ingredients immediately intrigued us. Cynar has a very interesting flavor, and we are generally not big fans of sweet vermouth. Obviously, when we are intrigued by a drink, we make it. (This appears to be a classic cocktail, but we first saw it on The Dusty Rebel.)
1½ oz. Cynar
1½ oz. bourbon
¾ oz. sweet vermouth, (Carpano Antica Formula)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass, strain into a rocks glass with ice, and garnish with an orange twist.
Quick confession: we didn’t make this with the Carpano Antica Formula because it’s not the vermouth we keep on hand. Maybe our Colonel wasn’t as nuanced, but it was still very tasty. There’s a lot of layering of flavors with each sip. (It’s also a bit similar to the Little Italy cocktail.) This drink will stay in our cocktail rotation for sure.
Billy Lazzaro is our fun-loving friend who loves fun so much that he makes his living creating games. He lives in Cambridge, MA.
Cynar is an Italian bitter liqueur, think Campari but less sweet, made from a variety of spices and artichokes. Yeah, man. Freaking artichokes. Question: how bad ass is that? Answer: VERY! Open it up and take a deep long sniff and you’ll detect a subtle hint of the old carciofo. You can use Cynar for a variety of applications, but my go-to is the Little Italy.
I tend to like my Manhattans on the bitter side, and the Little Italy is exactly that—a tasty, bitter Manhattan. Traditionally this drink is made with rye, I believe, but bourbon works great as well. If you can’t find Cynar, you can use Campari instead, but it will be less awesome.
2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Cynar
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Few dashes of angostura bitters
Garnish with a sour cherry or slice of orange if you want to zazz this baby up (optional).