Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drink Cynar On National Artichoke Hearts Day

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What are your plans for the holiday this week? No, not Irish mardi gras, the big one today, National Artichoke Hearts Day.

A study a few years back by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tipped artichokes as one of the best sources for antioxidants, so think of today as a gentle reminder that you need to eat a little healthier by incorporating artichokes into your diet.

Alternatively, consider this a gentle reminder that you need to drink more.

Who says you can't do both? Cynar is a bitter Italian liqueur most commonly known (when it's known at all) for its major ingredient: artichokes. "It perfectly conserves all the health properties of the ingredients used in its preparation," claims Gruppo Campari, the company behind the brand.
While it's popular in Italy and throughout Europe, American drinkers tend to avoid it like, well, artichokes. That's a mistake -- it's a wonderfully bitter and herbaceous aperitif that can also be used creatively in mixing cocktails.

"Cynar might be one of the more misunderstood aperitif liqueurs," says Leo Crowley, general manager of the West Side Lounge in Cambridge. "Probably because people find out it's made with artichokes and instantly turn up their noses. In fact, Cynar, like most liqueurs, is made with a variety of herbs and plants."

Think of it as a darker, more complex Campari when working with it in cocktails, he says. "The secret to using Cynar in a cocktail, in my mind, is to pair it with a spirit that is either floral, like gin, or has a lot of heat like a rye whiskey, and then add a little bit of sweetness."

Cynar Manhattan

1.5 oz rye (Rittenhouse or Michter's)
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Yellow Charteuse
.25 oz fresh pomegranate juice
3 dashes cherry bitters


Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain and serve up. Garnish with an orange peel to accentuate the citrus qualities of the Cynar. Live forever.

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