Fernet-Branca is quite possibly the most famous Amaro on the planet and certainly the most popular. It’s the main spirit sold by the eponymous cocktail brand. It’s become such an intricate part of the cocktail world that in the United States it’s often referred to behind that bar as “The Bartender’s Handshake.”
Like many alcoholic beverages, the initial uses behind the spirit was medicinal. It was believed to cure cholera, stomach aches, and nervous disorders. While that is no longer the marketing direction of the brand, it’s still made from the original recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation.
The exact formula is a trade secret known only to the Fernet-Branca president, Niccolò Branca, who personally measures out the aromatics during the production process. What we do know it that it is made up of 27 herbs and various other ingredients, and is known to contain aloe ferox, cinnamon, linden, iris, gentian, camomile, galingale, angelica, quinine, chinese rhubarb, myrrh, peppermint, saffron, and zedonary. It is aged in 15,000-20,000 liter Slovenian oak vats for at least a year.
The coffee-colored Amaro features aromas of menthol, orang peel, and camomile. The taste is bitter with barks and spices coming through, along with some light fruit notes. There is a moderate sweetness with a bitter finish, where more menthol can be found.
Fernet-Branca is often consumed neat or with coke, but is also a fantastic cocktail ingredient. If you’re looking to mix something up, the brand recommends a Brancamilano:
- Orange, lemon, and peppermint gremolata
- 6 cl Antica Formula Carpano
- 1.5 cl Fernet-Branca
- 1.5 cl Stravecchio Branca
Start by first adding your gremolata at the bottom of the serving glass. Then move on to adding some ice and pouring the three drinks onto them. Mix everything with the steerer. if needed put more ice at the end. Garnish with peppermint leaves.
Compared to other Amari, Fernet-Branca has a high ABV (39%) and contains less sugar. Over 75% of all Fernet consumed globally is done so in Argentina, where it is most commonly mixed with Coca-Cola.