G.B. Pezziol “Cynar” Padova, 1950’s, 1 Liter, 16.9% ABV, Direct Italian Market.
Cynar has long since dominated a large, and some what lesser known genre of amaro, called Carciofo (literally translating as artichoke). Its a relative new comer to not only amaro but Carciofo, alcoholic macerations focusing on plants from the family Asteraceae (artichoke, cardoon and blessed thistle being the trifecta of focus), being developed and marketed between 1945 and 1951 in the city of Padova within Italy’s northern Veneto.
Cynar owes it origins to the long standing health benefits of artichoke (latin name Cynara cardunculus). First documented by Lucius Columella of the Roman Empire in the 1st century he spoke to artichoke’s health benefits and culinary applications. After a stint in the military he later dedicated his life to farming and agriculture writing extensively about the subject in a number of texts the most important being Res Rustics, or Agriculture. His initial impression of the plant dealt not only in basic consumption but also maceration by boiling less edible parts of the plants, such as its leaves, in water or wine.
After thousands of years of admiration in a plethora of liquid mediums it seems as if Lucius Columella’s original assessment of the health benefits from maceration and decantation remain correct and confirmed. Leaves have well proven choleric action (the liver increases bile production) which allows the body to better increased the release of liver born toxins. The actual chemical responsible is cynarine, a hydroxycinnamic acid, that is still actively used in modern medicine such as the drug Sulfad (Silibini) used for children afflicted by liver chirrosis. Cynarine also inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet.
The idea for a commercially marketed carciofo came about in 1948 though had it not been for a local grocer and pastry chef some 100 years earlier it never would have existed. In 1840 Gian Baptist Pezziol opened his grocery store in Piazza Cavour of Padova (Padua). He specialized in confectionary products, particularly nougat, and in an effort not to waste egg yolks he ventured into a marsala and egg based liquor called “Zabajone Benedictine” that we know today as VoV.
The beverage exploded in popularity owing to it being marketed as an energy tonic. The first buildings of G.B. Pezziol’s distillery opened in 1845, and were continually enlarged over the next 55 some years. The Archduke of Austria was said to have been a huge fan after it was presented to his court in 1856, it was even prescribed to combatants of WWI and WWII for its energetic properties under the name of VAV2.
VoV remained extremely popular throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and is still made today by Molinari Spa. It was the success of this product which made the G.B. Pezziol production facilities such an attractive item for purchase when they went up for sale in the 1930’s. Millionaire Angelo Dalla Molle acquired the properties and began to expand the production capabilities of two new products: Pezziol Menta and Cynar. He conceived the idea of marketing a brand of carciofo, Cynar, in 1948 and created a new plant near Via Facciolati. Turning to a young Rino Pinton Dondi, chief engineer of production and the second generation of the same family to oversee Pezziol, the duo executed research and development over the next few years finally debuting the product in 1950.
Cynar experienced almost immediate success through power house public relations, iconic advertising (the famous add featuring actor Ernesto Calindri sitting in waves of traffic proclaiming: contro il ogorio della vita moderna! “(for) against the strain of modern life!”), proper brand and production management and thorough capitalization. Finally purchased by Groupo Campari in 1995, the production is now centralized in Milan with in the neighborhood of Sesto San Giovani.
The bottle(s) pictured about represent some of the earliest production of Cynar. The ABV has remained consistent through its history but current expressions are from an entirely different wine base. These older bottles also utilized a longer aging process in large oak barrels, have no artificial coloring and flavor was derived solely from the original 13 botanicals via maceration with no essences or extracts.