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 favourite 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 favourite 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:
- 45 ml Cynar
- 45 ml apple brandy (pick your favourite)
- 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.)