For whatever reason, the words “bartender’s handshake” make my skin crawl. I’m not against the concept—I actually love the idea of hospitality folks greeting each other with neat little shots and streamlined cocktails. I just hate the phrase.
The terminology does not, however, mean the drinks that fall into this category are anything but delightful. These amaro-heavy, usually two-ingredient aliquots of ethanol are designed to be quickly prepared and, in some cases, free-poured. My favorite subcategory of the genre is the 50/50, which is exactly what it sounds like—a mixture of two alcohols (one of which is usually an amaro), poured in equal parts.
My all-time favorite is the Ferrari (which is features my two best friends: Fernet Branca and Campari), but a new contender has entered the arena: the CIA 50/50, which bar owner and author Sother Teague keeps pre-batched by the bottle, is a shockingly harmonious mixture of Cynar and Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy Bonded. I don’t currently have that particular Laird’s on my bar cart, but I do have a bottle of Applejack, and I’m happy to report it pairs quite deliciously with Cynar.
It’s kind of like a bitter, alcoholic apple pie—lots of baking spices, lots of fruit, and a good bit of ethanol. It’s sweet enough to be enjoyed at the end of a meal, and bitter enough to help you digest it. In short, I love it.
To make this hospitable little handshake, you will need:
- 1 1/2 ounces Cynar
- 1 1/2 ounces apple brandy (pick your favorite)
- 3 shakes Angostura bitters
Combine everything in a lowball with a few cubes of cracked ice and give it a stir. Do not garnish—there’s no need, and doing so kind of violates the “spirit” of the genre. (Honestly, even the bitter might be a little excessive.)