It's Made With WHAT?

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By Jason Wilson
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

When introducing new and strange drinks to people, I find that some libations can be a harder sell than others.

Lately, for instance, I've been trying to spread the word about an Italian aperitivo called Cynar. Here's how the conversation usually goes:

Me: "You must try Cynar!"

Them: "Cynar? What in the world is that?"

Me: "It's a bitter, 33-proof liqueur that's distilled from artichokes."

Them: "Artichokes? Weird. What the heck does it taste like?"

Me: "It's sort of bittersweet."

Them: "What does it look like? Is it pretty in a martini glass?"

Me: "It's kind of a dark brown."

That's when they usually make a face, just as you might be doing right now. Cynar doesn't sound very promising, does it?

I won't lie. Cynar -- like anchovies and modern jazz -- takes a bit of effort, at first, to love. But I implore you: Make the effort.

Cynar (pronounced CHEE-nar), with its infusion of more than 13 herbs and other plants, is one of several bitter, low-proof aperitifs imported from Italy whose popularity has been growing in recent years. Because the Negroni has become a cocktail menu staple, nearly everyone is familiar with another Italian liqueur, the bright red Campari. And another of Italy's best-loved bitter spirits, Aperol, was recently introduced in the United States.


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