While experimenting behind the bar at Mercantile in Charleston, Michael Mai realized that boiling down an aperitif like Cynar—a robustly bitter Italian amaro—could reduce it to a bittersweet syrup that would harden into drink-garnishing candy. The glassy sheets are great for melting into hot toddies or spiked hot chocolate, or they can be crushed to add a bit of bitter magic atop eggnog. With so much sweetness around the holidays, a little bitter is always better. In a dry environment, this candy will keep well for a few days; for longer storage, tuck a packet of silica gel in the container to absorb humidity.
- Canola oil or nonstick baking spray
- 2 cups Cynar (Italian bitter liqueur)
- Line a baking sheet with a lightly oiled sheet of foil or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, add the cynar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it registers 300° on the thermometer (the “hard ball” stage), 6-8 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully pour the hot candy onto the prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely.
- Once cool, break the candy into shards or transfer to the bowl of a very dry food processor and pulse to a powder. Store in an airtight container and use within a week.