Friday, October 11, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Cin Cyn

Picking up that bottle of Cynar, the artichoke ambrosia, from where we left it last week. Don’t be surprised if I hoist it again in the next few entries. It’s a big bottle.

The spelling of Cin Cyn – or is it Cyn Cin? – is a nod to two of its ingredients, red vermouth (Cinzano being a popular brand) and Cynar. In some circles it’s known as a Gin-Cin-Cyn, a la Rin Tin Tin, to include the base spirit.

By now the cleverboots among you have made a pair of deductions. The drink is a variation on the classic Negroni, and its name is pronounced “Chin-Chin.” Dubbing the cocktail after the informal Italian toast “Cin Cin” is a way of honoring the national origin of its elements. The phrase is said to be an onomatopoetic rendition of the sound of clinking glasses, which is a lovely thought.

Too bad it’s untrue. The toast isn’t Italian, either. (If I’m going to burst bubbles, I might as well burst as many as possible). Its usage comes from eighteenth century British and Portuguese traders who misheard the Chinese expression “qing-qing,” or “please-please,” a response to offers of food and drink.

The Cinzano plug in the name aside, any sweet vermouth will work here. I opted to keep the Italian theme but ratchet up the flavor by using Punt e Mes, with its robust bitterness. That, in turn, demanded a staunch gin that could keep pace, like Tanqueray. Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters are typically included, but I followed the lead of Jason Wilson and went with the orange variety. They make a fine complement to the orange peel, a length about an inch or so wide, used as a garnish instead of a narrow twist. After the oils have been expressed, of course.

And what does that mean, exactly, expressing the oils? I had it illustrated beautifully to me a few weeks ago during the Bartending 101 course I bought myself as a birthday present. It was taught by Anu Apte, owner of Seattle cocktail haven Rob Roy, through her Swig Well Academy. Anu prefers wider swaths of peels as garnish because they offer more essential oils and thus more complexity. She demonstrated by holding some orange peel up and squeezing it. A visible cloud erupted from it, a spray of concentrated flavor. Hold the garnish with the peel facing down over your glass and do likewise, and that intense burst of citrus goes directly into your drink, augmenting what’s already there.

The Negroni is one of the most adaptable cocktails in the canon, with the Cyn Cin – sorry, Cin Cyn – a notably effective innovation. It’s not as bitter as a standard Negroni with Campari, even when made with Punt e Mes. The taste is both deeper and more mellow, especially with the additional orange notes. This spin on a spin of a staple earned the Chez K seal of approval in record time. It’s one of the best drinks in the Cocktail of the Week run so far. It’s sensational. How sensational? Worth buying a huge bottle of Cynar sensational.

The Cin Cyn

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Cynar
1 oz. Punt e Mes
dash of orange bitters

Stir. Strain. Garnish with a length of orange peel after expressing the oils.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at