Fernet: A Brief Introduction

What exotic spirit is all the rave among hipster bartenders in San Francisco but remains otherwise a giant question mark in most of the rest of America? Hint: It’s an Italian amaro, a type of bitter spirit. If you guessed Fernet, congratulations.

A complex blend of 40 or more herbals and spices, the spirit is in the same class of drinks as J├Ągermeister (although Fernet tends to be more bitter and less sugary). Fernet contains such ingredients as myrrh, camomile, saffron, cardamom and aloe; some suggest that some Fernets — which keep their recipes under tight secrecy — include such treasures as wormwood, coca leaf, quinine and codeine.

Amaros like Fernet usually get enjoyed as a digestif after a large meal, but they may be enjoyed separately. They pair well with coffee or espresso, and in Argentina Fernet is mixed with Coke in a 1:9 ratio and served as a popular drink. (I sipped a glass of Fernet-Branca with diet Pepsi — yummy, and a great summer cool-down thanks to the minty flavor of the F-B). You can even sub it out for bitters, especially in something like a Manhattan.

Bottles aren’t terribly expensive, and make a slightly unusual but versatile addition to any gentleman’s home liquor cabinet.

(N.B. — We’re planning on an alcohol segment about Fernet-Branca in an upcoming podcast. Stay tuned!)

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