A sweltering hot day begs for something new… and exciting. A Red Vermouth and Cynar Cocktail combines an old standby (red vermouth aka Italian vermouth) with a rather obscure but trendy Italian aperitif (Cynar, pronounced chee-nar), fresh squeezed orange juice, mole bitters, and an orange twist. This mixologist definitely thinks “exciting” defines this low alcohol and low calorie cocktail, and it’s a perfect sipper on a midsummer’s night!
Oh why rebuke you him that loves you so?
Lay breath so bitter on your bitter foe.~~ William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Cranky. Stressed. Torn between 24/7 in the AC and sweating on the patio. These times inevitably result in harsh words, hurt feelings, and unfortunate exchanges between my love and me.
It was in the context of this unusually hot
and long summer that I started looking for a soothing summer cocktail with a lower alcohol content. Playing with mixology with my favorite bartender (hubby) is one of our favorite relationship builders.
The cocktail started with a caveat: It had to be finished with my homemade mole bitters. YEP. I made my very first batch of bitters! They’re phenomenal, winning a taste test against my commercial mole bitters.
The commercial brand features chocolate, cinnamon, and chile. It’s certainly tasty. My mole bitters have layers of complexity found in? Mexican mole. In addition to the typical ingredients, I added orange, pepitas, cumin seed, etc. The addition of the citrus is what brings this one across the finish line.
All that to say, this is the first opportunity I’ve taken to talk about my bitters adventure. At $20 per little bottle, bitters are an expensive habit for a home mixologist. I made triple the volume for a third the price. The bitters will keep up to 5 years in my dark, cool pantry!
I originally titled this cocktail “Midsummer Night’s Cynar and Vermouth Cocktail,” and people couldn’t find it. Given the increased interest in Cynar, I figured it needed a more appropriate name. What do you think?
🍸 Why You’ll Love this Cocktail
- This Cynar cocktail is low alcohol, with about 17.25% alcohol.
- It’s a relatively low calorie cocktail, coming in at about 150 calories. WIN!
- It is light enough for a warm summer evening.
- The unique citrus-vegetal combination is really tasty!
🍾 About Cynar
I am not a “sweets” lover, and that is reflected in my cocktails. Savory Gin Cocktail with Cynar and Beet Juice was a product of much experimentation after feeling dissatisfied with the seeming emphasis of mixologists and bartenders on sweet cocktails.
When I discovered Cynar (pronounced CHEE-nar), I was a “happy camper.” I love its vegetal quality. While artichoke leaves are a prominent ingredient, Cynar is a delightful blend of herbs and plants, and the resulting slightly bitter liqueur is earthy and complex, with a touch of sweetness. It is a low-proof spirit at 16.5%, and when combined with sweet vermouth (18%), the cocktail might be considered a lightweight.
In bars around the US, Italian bitters (aka amari) are finally receiving the attention they deserve
IMHO (think Campari, Fernet, and Aperol). Cynar is in the class of amari, and it certainly isn’t for everyone! If you love coffee, dark chocolate, and grapefruit, you ought to roll a little over your tongue. 😉 For more on Cynar, see this Cynar fact sheet. BTW, it does NOT taste like artichokes!
Sweet Vermouth isn’t just for manhattans (though it is essential for them)! A good one is actually a lovely aperitif on its own… The sweetness of the vermouth is a perfect counterpoint to the slightly bitter taste of the Cynar. While the original Bitter Giuseppe calls for the addition of lemon juice and orange bitters, my Mid-Summer’s Night Cynar and Vermouth Cocktail specifies orange juice and
my homemade mole bitters.
- Cynar – Sorry, there is no substitute for this unique and flavorful amaro!
- red vermouth – The red vermouth is a key player in this low-alcohol cocktail, so don’t skimp on the quality. See 7 Best Sweet Vermouths in 2021 for guidance. I have used their “best budget” choice (Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth) and it’s very good.
- orange – You’ll need both a twist and the fresh orange juice, so make sure to make your twists before you squeeze the juice! I love this carving tool for making twists.
- mole bitters – I mentioned in the “inspiration” section that I made my mole bitters. At some point, I may publish my recipe. However, I love Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters, and enthusiastically recommend them. They’re a great addition to your bar.
This flavorful cocktail is simple (and quick)!
- Add the Cynar, the red vermouth, and orange juice to a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously until the mixture is very cold.
- Strain into a coupe glass, and add a few shakes of bitters (we’re very generous 😀 ).
- Garnish with a twist of orange.
If you’re intrigued by other uses of mole bitters, take a look at Savory Blood Orange Chocolate Sauce On Sous Vide Duck Breasts, Mexican Manhattan or South-O-the-Border Sidecar?, and Brandy-Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate.
I would love to hear from you if you venture into the world of amari and Cynar specifically! This is such a unique (and relatively low alcohol) cocktail, and for late summer, I think you’re going to love it!
Red Vermouth and Cynar Cocktail
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- 2 ounces Cynar
- 1 ounce red vermouth - aka sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce orange juice - fresh squeezed!
- several dashes mole bitters - we’re generous!
- orange twist
- Add the Cynar, the red vermouth, and orange juice to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until the mixture is very cold.
- Strain into a coupe glass, and add a few shakes of bitters, and garnish with a twist of orange.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.