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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces:
You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Bitter Ghost – Cynar Smoke Old Fashioned
- 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
- 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.