About a month ago, the New York Times published an article about summer cocktails. One of these was a highball that included the unlikely combination of St-Germain and Cynar. Leave it to Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin of Dutch Kills, Queens to take an artichoke-flavored amaro and mix it with elderflower liqueur and lemon juice. The simplicity of these three ingredients has a certain elegance to be sure, but it’s an unexpected combination that for me, earns this cocktail more than just a catchy name.
What really drew me in was the fact that there is no base spirit—at least not in the traditional sense. There’s no gin, vodka, whiskey—just the amaro kept company by some liqueur. A seductive and complex category of spirits dominated by dark and brooding herbal characteristics, an amaro is normally used to augment the flavor other ingredients in a recipe. But this drink dives right in with two full ounces. Cynar falls somewhere in the middle of the bittersweet spectrum. It’s not as bitter as say, Campari, but it holds it’s own as we have seen in drinks like the Norwegian Negroni and the Trident. If you are just starting appreciate bitter flavors, Cynar is actually pretty easy to accommodate, and recipes that use it just keep coming.
Take 3 by Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin
2 oz Cynar
.75 oz St-Germain
.75 oz lemon juice
seltzer to top
Add the Cynar, St-Germain and lemon juice to a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, then strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish with an orange wedge.
Worlds apart from Cynar is St-Germain. Sometimes criticized for being too sweet, the elderflower liqueur is so delicious that it’s hard to imagine it didn’t exist just a few short years ago. It’s easy to overdo it and use too much of a good thing, but that’s not happening here. Paired with our bitter amaro, it’s surprising how nicely they play together. Now, throw in some lemon juice to bring it into balance and you are almost done.
This drink is a Collins-style highball that should be topped off with seltzer and served in a tall glass. The orange wedge completes the picture. It’s light and refreshing, but like an ice cold cola (though much lighter), there’s some complexity in there to make it interesting. The sour lemon accentuates the bitter notes and helps to keep the St-Germain from taking over. In fact, I think the components blend so nicely that it’s hard to single out any one flavor that dominates—which is exactly how it should be.
Anyway, I know some of you probably saw the Times article, but I couldn’t let the summer go any longer without writing about this drink. It’s great for helping to defeat some of this heat, but I see no reason why it won’t work just as well as the colder months approach. Check it out, and let me now what you think.