The Little Italy cocktail is one of those modern classics that tells a whole story in a single sip. If you’re planning to pour this delightful riff on the iconic Manhattan cocktail, you better be prepared to slip into a whole Italian vibe that will likely include plenty of chef’s kiss hand gestures, knee slaps, and big, demonstrative forehead kisses. It’s the artichoke liqueur (yes, artichoke!) that gives it its singular flavor profile…
A glass with a shallower bowl allows the drink’s aroma to develop nicely
Choose a good rye whiskey with smoky notes and caramel notes
Pair the Little Italy with wood-fire pizza for a cute thematic tie-in
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice
Stir thoroughly until well-chilled
Strain into a chilled coupe glass
Garnish with cherries and serve
A brief history of the Little Italy cocktail
The Little Italy cocktail recipe has such a classic vibe that it’s easy to assume that it’s been around for ages. However, it only came onto the scene in 2005 when American mixologist Audrey Saunders dreamed it into being in New York City.
Her influential bar, Pegu Club, borders the Little Italy neighborhood and this was a tip of the hat to many of her Italian patrons. By adding the deeply Italian Cynar liqueur, she created a uniquely flavorful drink, and a nice thematic overlap between Italian and American ingredients at the same time.
What is Cynar liqueur?
Speaking of which, what on earth is Cynar liqueur? Only a little bit of amazing, friends! Cynar is a bitter Italian aperitif of the amaro variety. It’s made from 13 herbs and plants, predominant among which is the artichoke, from which the drink derives its name.
This moderate ABV liqueur first came onto the market in Italy in 1952, where it was marketed as the perfect solution ‘against the attrition of modern life’. Widely enjoyed as both an aperitif and a digestif, it has a versatile and distinctive flavor thanks to the artichoke leaves used in its preparation.
Top tips on serving the perfect Little Italy cocktail
Here are a few insider notes on serving the Little Italy cocktail like a pro, even if it’s the first time you’re making it:
Chill those glasses
A nice cool glass sets the stage for the three winning ingredients to do their finely choreographed dance to perfection. A coupe glass does the drink proud, but we also like a cute Nick & Nora glass. Ideally, you want something with a shallower bowl so the aroma of the drink can have its moment to shine.
Choose a really nice rye whiskey
Even though the Cynar liqueur sets this drink apart, it’s the rye whiskey that provides its backbone. We love using the Wild Turkey 101 Rye with its warm and smoky taste and caramel aroma with lingering honey notes leading to a long, spicey finish.