gambling on a gallon of wine…

really liking cynar, i thought i’d take a stab at making something similar at home. the infamous loved or feared liqueur claims to be about the artichoke, but i suspect there is more going on. creating something similar is going to either be easy or turn out to be far more complicated than anyone has ever given the spirit credit for… probably the latter.

what i’ve learned so far is that cynar is a distilled spirit that is cut with what is probably only water to 16.5% alcohol where anything wine like would be highly perishable… its also flavored with other botanicals besides the artichokes and get a pretty reasonable sugaring… i also wonder if they use something like potassium sorbate as a preservative considering the low alcohol… from the artichokes, i think they only use the leaves which could easily be a byproduct of a cannery… one mans trash another man’s treasure… upon further tastings, the bittering agent is probably really important. more than any artichoke character, the bitter botanicals is probably what makes or breaks the liqueur… i suspect it is some elegantly applied quinine… but with who knows, maybe rhubarb root or something weird and only mildly bitter playing a supporting role…

my strategy to make a similarly interesting liqueur (not exactly a replica) is to make an artichoke wine, fortify it, and add extra botanicals to make it as interestingly bitter as cynar… cynar likely has citrus peels in its botanical line up but i thought more fun would be strawberry (or i could add pomegranate seed if it needs more help down the road) and use coca cola as my backdrop. to me cynar’s allure is its sexy bitter kola character… after unsuccessfully playing with kola nuts it may be best to get this botanical’s help straight from the masters… and the wine will turn coke’s dreaded corn syrup into a useful alcoholic solvent… this just started fermenting tonight and many months later on i can revisit the recipe and bitter it up as necessary…

“strawberry kola artichoke wine” (for one gallon)

2 liters coca cola

1 liter water

414 grams of sliced and hulled organic strawberries (a couple pints)

1005 grams of sliced and cleaned artichokes (5 medium sized)

i cut the stems but did leave the hearts in as well as the leaves…

this all went int a stock pot and was boiled together for an hour…

i strained everything into a carboy but only had about 1.5 liters at 13 brix. to get a potential alcohol of 10% i need a brix of 18 and had to complete the gallon with a 21.5 brix syrup… you may end up with different results here so its best to do the algebra yourself. authors like amerine recommend fortified wines only ferment to 10% or so before they are fortified so i’m taking their advice…

i then added a campden tablet, 1/2 teaspoon of pectic enzyme, and pasteur’s champagne yeast

its probably 80 degrees in the house and this started fermenting very quickly…

**my previous attempt at an aromatized wine, the “hercules” is coming along nicely and encourages these styles of rustic liqueurs… there are lots of mistakes to learn from but hopefully i can disclose them all…

***update!

so i just racked this wine to the secondary fermentor and saved myself a sample taste. the wine so far rang in at approximately 6 brix so it has about 2.7% alcohol worth of fermenting to go to be dry… what i racked off so far looked very untypical… there was the most intense scum that stuck to the bottom and the yeast was concentrated in it… everything that was racked off looked rather clean relative to my one gallon “hurcules” wine… i’m wondering if this is a result of the unfermentable gums that are in coca cola? i know this is young stuff and i don’t really understand how things evolve but i have no confidence that it would taste like i intended… the acidity is there somewhat so its not too flat tasting, but i will have to measure it for a comparison to other wines. the artichoke flavor is there but the cola seems to have faded alot. hopefully aging and a little botanical embellishment may help it out…

***update!

so this wine sat around for a quite a while after it finished up in the secondary fermenter. after racking the wine i was left with 3.5 liters and i added 2 liters of miscellaneous 80 proof spirits to bring the 10% alcohol wine into the 20%’s before i increased the sugar to 16% by weight (required 1003 grams) leaving it in the very high teens of alcohol. i also did add 1 oz. of my quinine tincture. the result is pretty cool but not exactly mind blowing. i used white sugar but things taste really caramely which could be due to the bottle of cruzan black strap in the fortifying mix. so over all interesting shades of this and that but the product is definitely not as complex as cynar. i do feel like it grows sweeter as you drink it so much so that you crave some acidity. maybe i did capture some of the cynarin… so i just need some better botanicals. hmmm… wormwood, gentian, and orris?

1 thought on “gambling on a gallon of wine…

  1. this turned out more or less to be a stupid idea. certain things don’t turn out well after fermentation. strawberries also aren’t designed to be heated and then put into a beverage a lot of beautiful character is lost and you get a stewed flavor. pastry chefs apparently like that character but no one really makes a strawberry eau de vie because the fruit expression is all skewed by the heat.

    the recipe is completely garbage but a learning experience. to revisit this i’d distill the kola with the outer leaves of the artichokes. dilute with a neutral wine. then infuse everything with strawberries (heat free) then bitter with my quinine. sugar to slightly above sweet vermouth. 200g/l.

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