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Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar and Sweet Vermouth Cocktail)

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Lately, my life has been filled with packing and showing the apartment and cleaning and sorting through all my possessions and organizing documents so that we can spend a small fortune on a new place. It gives me headaches.

I love cooking, but cleaning, ugh. Let’s just say my domestic talents and interests don’t lie in that direction. I like things to be clean, but I hate the process of getting there. 

I’ve been trying to do a deep clean–really get the cooked-on stains off the stovetop, the dust off the fan blades and out from behind the furniture, the weird faint smudges off from on and around the handles of all the cabinets and appliances.

I’ve been spending lots of time with Jolie Kerr’s columns at Jezebel and the hairpin. I

t’s amazing what she knows about laundry stains and the mysterious powers of white vinegar, ammonia, OxyClean, and denture tablets.

Cynar, orange bitters, sweet vermouth

Did you know that the best way to get those stray hairs out of the corners of the bathroom is with a handheld vacuum cleaner? All you clean people probably did, but I didn’t.

After I’ve made myself do all of these things that I really don’t want to do, I like to give myself a reward and pour myself a drink.

These days, my tolerance isn’t so high, and my willingness to endure hangovers is low. Which means that moderation is essential. Especially because I have to get up the next day and do it all again.

Jigger and barspoon

Which is why I’ve been loving Dinah Sanders’ cleverly titled book The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level.

The book’s motto is “more drink, less drunk,” and as a fan of serious cocktails, I’m all for being able to enjoy a well-balanced drink that I won’t regret in the morning.

Cynar

One of my favorite shims in the book is the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail that gets its bitterness from the Italian amaro Cynar (pronounced chee-nar). Cynar is a complex, herbaceous artichoke-based liqueur, and, I won’t lie, it’s not for everyone.

If you shy away from bitter flavors, it might not be for you. But if you like coffee and grapefruit and other things with bitter notes, it might turn out to be something you crave.

Mixing tin with barspoon

In the Bitter Giuseppe, the Cynar’s bitterness is tempered by sweet vermouth, a little bit of lemon juice and a few dashes of orange bitters (which, despite their name, are not actually bitter at all).

It’s a drink that originated at one of my favorite Chicago cocktail bars, The Violet Hour, and like most of what they concoct, it’s the sort of cocktail I like to sip and linger over.

Bitter Giuseppe with mixing tin and jigger in the background

This is a drink that I think makes a lovely aperitif, and it’s become a regular part of my cocktail rotation.

If you like complex bitter flavors, you should give it a try. It might become a regular one for you.

(P.S. Looking for something else to do with that bottle of Cynar? Try The Popinjay.)

Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar and Sweet Vermouth Cocktail)
Yield: 1 cocktail

Bitter Giuseppe

Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar and Sweet Vermouth Cocktail)

This low-alcohol cocktail was originally developed by Stephen Cole at Chicago’s Violet Hour. It is on the bitter side of the spectrum, but it’s not an exceptionally bitter drink. It’s herbaceous and complex. The bitter Cynar gets held in check by the sweetness from the vermouth and the sour from the lemon juice. Sanders calls for Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, but lately I’ve been making it with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. I think Vya sweet vermouth would also be lovely here. For the orange bitters, I recommend Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 or Angostura Orange Bitters over Fee Brothers (if you have some other less common orange bitters you like, feel free to use those).

Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Cynar
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 dashes orange bitters

Instructions

  1. Chill an Old Fashioned glass in the freezer.
  2. In an ice-filled mixing glass or mixing tin add the Cynar, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and orange bitters. Stir until cold.
  3. Remove the glass from the freezer and fill with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with a piece of lemon peel.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

1

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 128Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 0g
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Steve

Saturday 13th of July 2019

Late to the party but equally enthusiastic about this cocktail, particularly as a digestivo. Agree that Cocchi is a good substitute for Carpano.

Carol

Saturday 15th of June 2019

Great cocktail. Agree that it makes a good after dinner digestive. Too many after dinner drinks are sickeningly sweet. This one is perfect. Adding it to the Cocktail journal. Used Dolan’s sweet vermouth. Will do some research using others.

Jen

Saturday 19th of January 2019

Can I ask why those bitters over Fee? Trying to decide which to order.

Mary

Saturday 19th of January 2019

Fee bitters are very straight-forward, one-note orange flavor (think orange soda) and they are glycerin-based (they're the only widely distributed bitters brand that is alcohol-free, which is obviously desirable in some circumstances). Regan's are alcohol-based and have more complex flavors. I sometimes mix the two together, but rarely use Fee bitters on their own. They're not bad, I just feel like the Regan's adds more to a drink.

Anna Ravenscroft

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Great cocktail to sip after dinner. What a great digestif.

Erica

Thursday 17th of November 2016

This couldn't be more up my alley. My boyfriend says I drink like an old Italian man -- Campari? Amaro of any kind? Fernet (or as he calls it, "liquid spiders")? Cynar? If it's horrible and bitter, I'm in.

Enjoying my second Bitter Giuseppe in as many nights. What a great drink to sip while I read and wait for dinner to come out of the oven! And, it uses healthy quantities of things that might otherwise take ages to get through.

Thank you for this!

Mary

Friday 18th of November 2016

Erica, I'm so glad to have a kindred spirit! I'm so with you on loving bitter amari! And I love this cocktail!