I don't make my way to Gordon's in Waltham as much as I'd like to (wait, that didn't sound very good) but when I do, I almost always walk away with something new. This time, it was Cynar 70 Proof. Cynar, one of my favorite amaros, is generally bottled at 33 proof. Cynar 70 is, naturally, turned up to 70.
Ok, first off, the back of the bottle says "Bigger. Bolder. Italian!" I can't help but read that last bit as "More Italian!" I wonder what that's supposed to mean?
Label nitpicking aside, the bottle advertises "...the same unique taste... but with a new kick." I immediately wondered what exactly that means, and decided to perform a completely unscientific test.
As a fairly new product, there is not much information on the internet yet. A couple of Google searches produced a bunch of articles that simply transcribe the press release, but two of interest. Unfortunately the first, which I will not link to, was interesting for terrible reasons. It supplied a list of cocktails to try with the new, more powerful, Cynar. Rather than new cocktails that take advantage of Cynar 70's characteristics, this list took the "if some is good, more must be better" approach. If we're going to use a higher proof alternative for one ingredient, let's use higher proof alternatives for all of the ingredients. What could go wrong?
The second article is noteworthy in that it suggests that the formula for Cynar 70 is actually tweaked to work with the higher alcohol content. This brings me to my almost completely unscientific experiment. I want to know what, other that the alcohol, is different.
I tasted 4 different concoctions. The first two were, of course, Cynar and Cynar 70. These were compared to Cynar 70 diluted to approximately 16% abv, and standard Cynar boosted to 35% with a bit of Grave's 190.
Cynar 70 vs. boosted Cynar
I'm not going provide any in depth commentary on Cynar 70. I don't really do plain tasting note. All I will say is that it's really great. It has all of the good parts of standard Cynar, but with more intensity and without the lingering aftertaste that I sometimes like, but often don't. The point of this paragraph is to compare Cynar 70 to standard Cynar "diluted" with Grave's. Alcohol content has very definite effects on flavor (see future posts on my Bigallet China China clone) but in tasting the boosted Cynar, while I can recognize that there are some similarities to Cynar 70, I mostly just think it's gross. Basically, it tastes like exactly what it is, Cynar with nearly pure grain alcohol added. This is not all that surprising. Campari is too good a company to simply add alcohol to an existing product and call it new.
Cynar vs. diluted Cynar 70
Here's where things get more interesting. They tasted very similar. While I won't say definitively that they are the same, I'm just not quite convinced that they are different. One failure in my test is that while the bottles were both room temperature, I diluted the 70 with cold tap water. Without a more patient experiment, allowing both samples to reach the same temperature, I can't be sure that the differences I tasted weren't due to one being colder than the other. The diluted 70 felt just a bit thinner. In my opinion, this could possibly be due to the temperature, or it might be a difference in sugar content.
It's quite possible that Cynar 70 is simply the same recipe as standard Cynar, but diluted less. At the very least it is close. This opens up an interesting possibility. If you want standard Cynar, and agree that the differences are sufficiently insignificant, you could save some money by buying Cynar 70 and diluting it. On the other hand, why bother? I think they both have their uses. I love standard Cynar, but it's never quite worked for me with soda. Cynar 70 and soda is phenomenal. There are many cocktail that use standard Cynar, and substituting Cynar 70 might screw up the balance (although I'm willing to bet that a Cynar 70 sour will be the exception, I'll try one soon.) So for now, I think that my solution will be to stock both.