Fernet Branca, or, How To Buy A Bartender A Drink

Pete Capella
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The bartender. A highly decorated military officer of the service industry, doing multiple tours of duty behind the wooden lines. He makes your drinks. He takes your money. He earns your respect. (And by “He”, I mean the universal He and She. Some of the best booze slingers in the world are ladies.) As a patron, you are in awe of his speed and prowess amidst the madness of the late-night battlefield and, hell, you want to buy him a drink. But, what does a soldier drink in the heat of battle? There is one order that every infantryman of the service industry not only enjoys, but reciprocates respect for the person who orders it. So you lock eyes with him and bark your order to fill your respective canteens with two shots of Fernet Branca.

Fernet Branca is a bitter Italian amaro digestif, revered by bartenders all over the world. Its strong alcohol content and balanced bitter and herbal palette lend itself well to a barman’s sophisticated tastes and lack of free-time behind the bar. First created by the Branca family in 1845, most likely as a stomach medicine, its globally-sourced and manually dosed 27 herbal ingredients have remained a family secret. In fact, according to the Fernet Branca distillery, the only guardian of the secret recipe is the company president Niccolo Branca, “who personally takes care of the dosage of spices during the manufacturing process.”

Some of the revealed spices and herbs include South African aloe, Chinese rhubarb and Italian chamomile. Though some ingredients are known, not even the suppliers of the components know the proper measurements that make up Fernet Branca’s unique taste profile. The production process of the digestif is as much of a secret as what goes into the alcohol. With each element hand measured, some are heat-treated to create flavor extracts while others are infused directly into the alcohol. Once, properly flavored, the concoction rests in oak barrels for 12 months, aging it to perfection.

When in the trenches with your captain of cocktails, remember the family-owned Italian liqueur, Fernet Branca, is your best ammunition. Bottoms up, soldiers.


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