We'd met Cynar before, both in Italy and in the particularly well-stocked liquor cabinets of friends. But this unique spirit is popping up around town like never before, so we sat down with Cynar to talk artichokes, cocktails and Cynar's uneasy history with Fernet.
SFist: Can you share with us what you are, precisely?
Cynar: Sì, certo. I am an amaro liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, of which artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is the most notable. (The other ingredients are secret, much like your American Coca-Cola!)
SFist: Artichoke! Do you think that scares people away? There's a big artichoke visible on your label.
Cynar: Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It is important to remember that I do not taste so much like artichoke. I have an herbal, bittersweet flavor. I can be enjoyed as a digestif, an apéritif, or in cocktails. I am a friendly guy!
SFist: Are you kind of like Fernet?
SFist: Not at all like Fernet?
Cynar: Fernet and I, we used to be amici. We were both dark, both amaros, both full of herbal flavor. But something happened long ago. I don't care to discuss it. Let us say that Fernet's acrid nature came out. I am bitter, yes, but also with sweetness. Fernet can hurt you ... in the mouth, and also in the heart.
SFist: I'm sorry to hear that. How long have you been around? It seems like you've been all over the S.F. cocktail scene in the last couple years.
Cynar: I was born in 1952. In a lot of ways I'm your typical 61-year-old Italian. I like sitting on the sidewalk with my friends, watching the world go by. I like playing bocce and smoking cigarettes.
SFist: Where can we find you around town?
Cynar: I'm in most bars, right next to the bottles of Aperol and Campari. You can order me on the rocks or with a splash of soda. In Switzerland they drink me with orange juice! It is crazy, yes. But it is also delicious.
SFist: How about cocktail menus? Are there any cocktails around town that showcase your fine flavors?
Cynar: Oh, yes. There are many, many. The 'Two Sisters' at Two Sisters with templeton rye, Cynar, punt e mes and bitters. The Mescal Paloma at Nopalito with Del Maguey Vida, grapefruit, soda and Cynar. The Nobody’s Dirty Business at Dalva with Batavia Arrack, Bonal, Maraschino liqueur, lime, Cynar and Prosecco. There are many!
SFist: What do you say to people that think you're disgusting?
Cynar: There are many people in the world. Some like Peroni, some like Prosecco. Some like gelato, others prefer sorbetto. Some like Cynar. Others say 'no, grazie!' to Cynar. It is a big world. If you do not like me, it does not mean I do not like you. We can all be friends, yes?