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.