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Smoky Cynar Old Fashioned

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Cynar Old Fashioned with apple garnish and burnt cinnamon stick
Cynar Old Fashioned

When it’s cold outside and the days are getting shorter, I’m always drawn toward bitter, smoky cocktails like this Cynar Smoke Old Fashioned. Using mezcal, Cynar and apple molasses, this cocktail is perfect to sip outside with a smoked cinnamon stick and dried apple slice as the leaves change color.

It’s still Old Fashioned Week here in Louisville so I’ve got this one last riff on the old fashioned with a split base that tastes nothing like a classic old fashioned, but still deserves a try if you love bitter, smoky cocktails.

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What’s an Old Fashioned?

a perfect old fashioned in a rocks glass over ice with bitters and other old fashioned surrounding it. Garnished with orange peel and cherry
A Perfect Old Fashioned

While a classic old fashioned consists of whiskey, sugar, and bitters, we’re swapping up the entire ingredient list for something that makes an aggressive, bitter cocktail still fun to sip and explore. In a classic old fashioned we have about 2 ounces of whiskey – usually bourbon, ¼ to ½ oz of simple syrup or a sugar cube and a healthy dose of bitters.

If you’d like to know how to make the perfect old fashioned, or learn more about its history, head to How to Make a Perfect Old Fashioned.

What’s Cynar?

shot of cynar in a shot glass on a wooden surface

Produced in Italy as a digestivo, made to sip after meals to aid in digestion, Cynar is an Amari made with artichokes and infused with 13 herbs and spices. It’s a bittersweet liqueur, perfect to settle the stomach after a heavy meal or add notes of vegetal bitterness to cocktails.

If you’re wondering, it’s pronounced CHEE-nar but if you mispronounce it at a liquor store it’s common enough they’ll know what you’re asking for.

It’s most often used in a spritz or highball-like cocktail, where the bitter digestivo is tempered/diluted with prosecco, soda water or seltzer and sipped as a low abv cocktail. It can also be used as the Amaro in a black Manhattan.

Flavors in this Cynar Smoke Old Fashioned

Cynar Old Fashioned with apple garnish and burnt cinnamon stick
Cynar Old Fashioned

This is not an old fashioned for the faint of heart. This old fashioned smacks you in the face with the smokiness of the mezcal and backs that up with the bittersweet flavor of the Cynar. Underneath it all, the sweet, caramel flavors of the apple molasses (that I’ve used in the Caramel Apple Old Fashioned and the Apple Old Fashioned) counter the bitterness and smoke.

This cocktail finishes smoky and strong, with a sweet apple aftertaste to calm down the palate after each sip. The nose is all smoke with a bit of vegetalness in it. Glorious flavors for an unconventional old fashioned.

Ratios and Adjustments for the Cynar Old Fashioned

jiggers and shakers on a bar top
Image by Pavel Danilyuk via Canva

As always, I’ll tell you to adjust the ratios of the recipe based on your own experience and preferences.

For me, using ½ each of the Cynar and mezcal keeps the bitter and smoke front and center. Higher ratios left my mouth far to dry and smoked. However, ½ oz of each is too much, simply cut down to ¼ oz of each and increase the amount of the reposado tequila.

This cocktail will absolutely work if you want to substitute bourbon for the reposado tequila. It’s a lovely cocktail, but bourbon’s sweetness doesn’t add the slight vegetal note I get from the younger reposado tequila. In this case, I prefer the reposado tequila.

Garnish: Torched Cinnamon

Image by Martyna87 via Canva/Getty Images

Get out the kitchen torch, we’re going big with the garnish. Set a cinnamon stick on fire without setting yourself on fire and use that to garnish the cocktail with a classy dehydrated apple slice. If you don’t have anything dehydrated, make a fancy apple fan to put atop the old fashioned.

Other Old Fashioned Cocktails to Try

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Recommended Bar Tools

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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

Cynar Old Fashioned with apple garnish and burnt cinnamon stick
Cynar Old Fashioned
Cynar Old Fashioned with apple garnish and burnt cinnamon stick

Bitter Ghost – Cynar Smoke Old Fashioned

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
I wanted something smoky and bitter to close out the week and this bitter, smoky cocktail starts off aggressive and sweetens as it dilutes over ice. If you love bitter cocktails, you must mix this up. 
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Total Time 3 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine tequila cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1 oz reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/4 oz apple molasses**
  • 2 droppers gingerbread bitters
  • Garnish: dried apple peel torched cinnamon stick

Instructions
 

  • Combine Cynar, mezcal, reposado tequila, bitters and apple molasses in a mixing glass and add ice.
  • Stir until well-chilled and strain into a rocks glass with a large cube.
  • Garnish with dried apple and cinnamon stick.

Notes

**Apple molasses is easy to make (and doesn’t contain any real molasses). I can’t take credit for the recipe. There are many all over the internet, but this is the one I used: https://www.foodiewithfamily.com/boiled-cider-apple-molasses/.
Apple molasses is simply fresh pressed apple cider reduced to 1/7th or 1/8th of its original volume. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Keyword apple, cynar, mezcal, old fashioned, reposado, tequila
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on October 23rd, 2020
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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