Episode #066 – Fernet Branca Cocktails

Fernet Branca is as mystifying an ingredient as any and it begins with the proper pronunciation, because whether you’re in a bar or a liquor store, you want to look like this ain’t your first time (even if it is). So, to clarify once and for all, it’s pronounced  “fehr:NET.BRAHN:kah.”

Next, and perhaps most imposingly so, is the taste. Fernet Branca is part of a the category of drink–lowercase ‘f’ fernet, a family of very bitter Italian amaro; so we’ll refer to this particular bottle as Branca even though it is by far the most famous fernet in the bunch and people often refer to it as Fernet. Branca is intensely bitter, perhaps more than words can say, and has 27 herbs known only to the makers to create such an experience. There are notes of mint, cardamom, saffron, and many others. It really needs to be experienced to be believed.

The last most important note is one that Alex from Speaking Easy needs to learn more than anyone–with Branca, restraint, and measurement is key. When a recipe calls for a bar spoon of it a second bar spoon may make the drink unpalatable to all but the most bitter-loving friends you’ve got. So be careful. And the recipes–well, we could probably post hundreds of them, but we’ll stick to some of our favorites. Our suggestion is to go out and buy a bottle–almost always less than $30–and try it. It’s going to be an acquired taste, but we promise, there is a big payoff once you get there. Enjoy!

Hanky Panky

(we’ve also got a blog post on the topic: http://speakingeasypodcast.com/hanky-panky-cocktail-recipe/):

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon Fernet Branca

Combine and stir in a mixing glass. Strain into an old fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

Toronto Cocktail (derived from an Old Fashioned)

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey (Old Overholt is a great match for the nutty complexity)
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Fanciulli Cocktail (derived from a Manhattan)

  • 1 1/2 ounce bourbon or rye
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet Branca

Combine and stir in a mixing glass. Strain into a coupe glass.

Hocus Pocus

(not just a great movie reference http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107120/ but also a great drink)

  • 1 3⁄4 oz Gin
  • 1⁄2 oz Triple sec, Combier L’Original Liqueur D’Orange
  • 1⁄2 oz Sweet vermouth
  • 1⁄4 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1 twist Orange peel

Combine and stir in a mixing glass. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.