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Cynar and Campari are both Italian liqueurs, but they look and taste very different.

In this article, you will learn what they both taste like, and how they are similar and different.

Key takeaways:

  • Cynar is a brown, artichoke-based bittersweet liqueur with earthy, vegetal notes. Campari is a red bitter liqueur with orange, herbal, and floral notes.
  • Cynar is lower in alcohol at 16.5% ABV. Campari alcohol levels varies depending on where it is sold between 20.5-28.5% ABV.
  • Campari is more versatile and a key ingredient in many classic cocktails.
Cynar liqueur

What is Cynar?

Cynar is an artichoke-based bittersweet liqueur.

It is classified as an amaro. Amari are Italian liqueurs made from a mix of herbs, roots, and spices that give them unique flavors. Amari can be bitter or sweet.

Cynar was created in 1952 in Padua, Italy by Angelo Dalle Molle.

It is a pre- or post-dinner drink and has become a bartender’s favorite for creating cocktails.

Cynar is popular in Italy, Brazil, and Switzerland.

What Cynar tastes like

Cynar is made with an infusion of 13 herbs and botanicals, including artichoke.

Despite being famous for being artichoke based, Cynar does not taste overtly of artichoke.

It has an earthy flavor with herbal and vegetal notes and is sometimes described by bartenders as “pungent”.

While it is a bitter liqueur, it also has a touch of sweetness which makes it feel balanced on the palette.

The exact recipe is something of a secret, but we do know that it is based on some natural substances found in artichokes, such as “cynarine”.

Cynar is dark brown in color.

Cynar pronunciation

Pronounce Cynar CHEE-NAR.

How to drink Cynar

Cynar can be drunk neat or mixed with soda, orange juice or tonic water.

It is also used to make cocktails.

Cynar vs Cynar 70

Cynar 70 is a stronger version of Cynar developed specifically for cocktails. Being stronger in alcohol, Cynar 70 is also served as shots.

The “70” refers to it being 70 proof, making it twice as strong as regular Cynar.

What is Campari?

Campari is an Italian aperitif famous for its vibrant red color.

Like Cynar, Campari is an amaro.

It was invented in Milan, Italy in 1860 by Gaspare Campari.

Campari liqueur

What Campari tastes like

It has intense orange, herbal and floral aromas. It has a pleasant bitter aftertaste.

How to drink Campari

Campari can be drunk neat as pre-dinner drink or enjoyed in a refreshing Campari Spritz. That said, Campari is best known as a key component in many classic Italian cocktails like The Americano and Negroni.

For a twist on a classic Negroni with Campari, see our recipe for Port Negroni.

Cynar vs Campari alcohol level

Campari is higher in alcohol than Cynar having between between 20.5-28.5% ABV, depending on where it is sold in the world.

Cynar has an alcohol content of 16.5% ABV.

So, cocktails made with Campari rather than Cynar will have a higher overall alcohol content.

Cynar vs Campari – which is better for making cocktails?

As an experienced cocktail maker, I love nothing more than trying new recipes and playing around with flavors. It really is the best way to learn.

That said, if you are struggling to figure out whether to use Cynar of Campari for your next cocktail, here are some tips and guidelines to help you make the right choice.

Desired bitterness levels

If you are looking make a cocktail with a bitter kick to it then Campari is the go-to choice.

Cynar, on the other hand, is a good choice for when you want to create a cocktail with a more subdued, earthy bitterness to it.

Match with the base spirit

Campari pairs well with clear spirits like vodka and gin, often giving the cocktail and vibrant red color that is pleasing to the eye.

The relatively neutral flavors of vodka and gin allow Campari aromas and flavors to shine through.

Cynar’s earthy, herbal profile pairs well with darker spirits like brandy and whiskey. Whiskey and brandy lovers won’t be put off by a brown-colored cocktail.

Consider the occasion and the season

We associate drinks with certain events and seasons, so it is important to consider the occasion and the season when making cocktails.

Campari’s vibrant bright color and citrus flavors make it scream summer. So, it is nearly always a great choice when putting together a summery cocktail or spritz.

The earthy flavors of Cynar combined with its dark color make it a natural choice for when you want to create a winter drink.

Consider the audience

Check with friends and family for preferences before making them a cocktail.

If they like to try new things and experiment, they could prefer a cocktail with Cynar.

Others might find the brown color off-putting and much prefer the classic flavors of Campari.

If you think you need to make a cocktail that is a crowd pleaser, I recommend going with Campari. It is one of the world’s most popular liqueurs for a reason.

Campari spritz cocktail

Comparing cocktails with Cynar and Campari

Both liqueurs are used in various cocktails, each bringing their unique flavors to create delicious drinks.

Let’s talk about some popular cocktails featuring both Cynar and Campari.


Campari: Campari is a key ingredient in the classic Negroni cocktail.

Its iconic red color and bitterness are balanced perfectly with gin and sweet vermouth.

The result is a classic cocktail known the world over.

Cynar: Cynar blended with the gin and vermouth, creates a harmonious and understated but satisfying cocktail.


Campari: Boulevardier is made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Campari adds vibrancy and complexity to this classic cocktail.

Cynar: Boulevardier made with Cynar is sometimes known as a “Boulevar-Cynar”.

The Cynar brings a smoother and less intense bitterness than Campari, making it a good choice if you don’t like too much bitterness.


Campari: The Americano is a simple and refreshing cocktail made by mixing Campari with sweet vermouth, and soda water.

Campari’s bitterness is balanced out by the sweet vermouth and soda water, making it the perfect light summer aperitif.

Cynar: Replace Campari with Cynar and you get a Cynar Americano.

The Cynar brings a more earthy and herbaceous flavor to the overall taste.

Negroni Sbagliato

Campari: In this variation on a Negroni, Campari is mixed with sweet vermouth and prosecco instead of gin. The prosecco adds lightness and fizz to the classic Negroni.

Cynar: The Cynar Sbagliato substitutes Cynar for Campari. It creates a mellow and more herbaceous drink. Cynar’s unique vegetal character pairs well with the light and fruity Prosecco.

Cynar and Campari both offer distinct flavor profiles to elevate almost any cocktail.

Deciding which one to use will really depend on whether you prefer the Campari’s bold and bright bitterness or Cynar’s earthy and vegetal notes.

Can I substitute Cynar for Campari?

Cynar can be a good substitute for Campari in some cases. They are both Italian liqueurs made from herbs and plants, but bear in mind that Cynar isn’t as bitter as Campari.

You will also need to take into account the color – its brown color may not be as appetizing to some as Campari’s vibrant red color.

Read with confidence: I am WSET L2 Award in Spirits & Diagio Bar Academy certified.