You make recall that I have lately been over-interested in Cynar, the artichoke-based Italian liqueur with the label that everybody loves and the taste that quite a few people detest. I personally, find its flavor intriguing and its innate bitterness intriguing.
Recently, I tasted and enjoyed a Cynartown at Death & Co. The gin-based cocktail encouraged me that good drinks could in fact be made with Cynar. So, when I've had a free night lately, I've repaired to the kitchen and attempted to make a drink of my own. I'm not terribly sophisticated in my experiments. Mainly, I take recipes to drinks I like and substituted Cynar for one of its ingredients, typically the Italian vermouth.
I was getting nowhere. Some drinks were interesting. But interesting doesn't cut it in cocktail land. It's got to taste good. Damn good! Then a friend, Elizabeth, whose also a fan of Cynar (she actually turned me on to it) sent me an e-mail. She noted that lemon is a natural accompaniment to an artichoke. Could sparkling lemon soda and Cynar be a good marriage?
I let the suggestion lie for a few days. But then, suddenly, the notion struck me as a good lead. I went to the deli to buy some San Pellegrino Limonata. Amazingly—since I live in an Italian neighborhood—I couldn't find any. I bought the France-made Rieme sparkling limonade instead.
I pictured the two ingredient going together much in the way Pimm's and ginger ale do in a Pimm's Cup: a shot of Pimm's; a lot of ginger ale; a garnish. First I tried the ratio I usually employ for a Pimm's Cup: 1 1/2 oz. Pimm's and 4 oz. lemon soda. Good, but the strong bitterness of the Cynar was still too prominent. I upped the amount of soda. My eventual ratio was six parts lemon soda to one part Cynar (3/4 oz. Cynar to 4 1/2 oz. lemon soda, to be exact).
The result was heaven, in my humble opinion. It has the lightness, the refreshing quality I associate with a Pimm's Cup. The bitter edge of the Cynar lent a complexity in the finish of each sip. What's more, the drink is a golden color that is a joy to behold. You can go heavier on the soda, but I wouldn't recommend it. It becomes too simple-minded after 4 1/2 oz.
A couple days later I plucked a spring of mint from my windowsill plant and found the perfect garnish. Another layer of flavor was added, and a dash of additional color.
Elizabeth came up with the name: Cynarata. (The Golden Artichoke was swiftly rejected.) I share credit for the drink with Elizabeth, who is a pastry chef and knows her flavors. She's a good idea person. I'm ridiculously proud of the drink and will be fixing them for anybody who comes through my door and is patient enough to listen to my babbling.
Here's the recipe, put simply:
3/4 oz. Cynar
4 1/2 oz. sparkling limon soda (Rieme Sparkling Limonade, if you can find it)
Mix ingredients with ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.