It wasn’t until a recent trip to Argentina that I had ever heard of the liquor Fernet Branca. They almost consider a national drink there, though it is made in Milan, Italy. I still had yet to taste it, but a few weeks ago at Duty Free in the Dusseldorf, Germany airport there was a sale so I couldn’t resist.
What is Fernet Branca?
Fernet Branca, straight out of Milan and produced by the Fratelli Branca company, is a potent blend of amaro that takes its flavor from more than 40 herbs and spices such as cardamom, saffron, myrrh, rhubarb, and aloe with a base of grape distilled spirits and caramel coloring. It contains 45% alcohol. When it was created in 1845 by a woman named Maria Scala (later Maria Branca through marriage), Fernet was intended as a medicine. Brancamenta is a mint flavored version of Fernet.
How and what do you drink it with?
Fernet Branca is a digestif post meals, sometimes mixed with coffee or espresso, and can be served at room temperature or on the rocks. In Argentina Fernet is often drunk with Coca Cola (A tall glass with ice, 1/10 full with Fernet, and then add Coke) and a popular drink at bars. In the Czech Republic Fernet is drunk over ice with tonic water and called Bavarske Pivo. Fernet is also often used as a replacement to Angostura Bitters in cocktails such as the Manhattan to create the Toronto or Fanciulli.
Are there any medicinal qualities to Fernet Branca?
Sure. All of the herbs in Fernet will do everything from cure menstrual and gastrointestinal pains to hangovers. It was once believed to cure cholera too, but that theory hasn’t exactly panned out. Are they proven scientifically, though? Not really.
For more information visit the Fernet Branca website.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.