Cynar

$ — 16.5% ABV — Artichoke

Built like a perfume, Cynar [chee-nahr] is served both as an aperitivo and a digestivo, either whetting the appetite or settling the stomach. Technically a liqueur, it's bitter enough to replace Campari or Angostura. Cynar is rather thick in the glass and is often served neat or with a splash of soda water. When taken by itself, it's a pretty surprising layering of flavors that goes from sweet to savory and finally to bitter. The soda water makes it a little lighter and effervescent, a little more suitable for a summer afternoon.

Despite a total 13 botanicals, Cynar is mostly vegetal but, not unlike the artichokes used to make it, it is also very creamy. That might explain why its namesake cocktail the Cynar Flip comprises only of a shot of Cynar and an egg white. You might think that sounds gross but the robustness and complexity of Cynar doesn't require a whole lot to set it off and the texture of the egg white is really pleasing. The Swiss however prefer to mix it with fresh orange juice.

For those looking for a simple and not terribly alcoholic drink, Cynar fits the bill quite well. Especially after being shaken it's not even as alcoholic as wine, and you won't need much to feel 'done.' But keep in mind a low ABV means it won't last forever. Use up a bottle of Cynar like you might a vermouth: finish it within a month, or it might go a bit sour.

Cynar is located in Milan, Lombardy in northern Italy. Established in 1952, it is now owned by Gruppo Campari.