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The TDN last thursday (march 5) was sponsored by Fernet Branca and we were honored to have Nicole Hayek from Fernet Branca with us to participate and answer our questions while we mixed up a range of cocktails containing Fernet, on this a bit mysterious “all-purpose” medecine and digestif, which doesn`t leave anyone untouched – it’s an acquired taste first and foremost, and with the ones who are real fans the fernet love is as solid as a rock.

Fernet Branca is a favorite beverage of mine so even though i was only able to attend the Fernet sponsored TDN for about an hour, that hour i really enjoyed. It doesnt hurt to say it again, Fernet is not only a digestif and a cocktail ingredient , it´s a medecine, it not only keeps you healthy, it also makes you happy!

The winning cocktail of the evening – Bully Boy (was determined by a poll on the Mixoloseum blog) and will receive a bottle of Amaro Nonino courtesy of Mud Puddle Books. Congrats Chris!


Fernet Branca hails from Italy and is quite a thing of its own and is remotely close to Gammeldansk or maybe even Jegermeister.

Produced in Milan, Italy – Fernet Branca is a bitter, aromatic grape-based spirit that is said to be made from over 40 herbs and spices and said to be among them are myrrh, chamomille, aloe, gentian root, rhubarb, red cinchona bark, galanga zedoary and saffron. The saffron is one of the key ingredients and the Branca family actually esentially controls the market price for this spice by accounting for 75% of the worlds saffron consumption. Saffron is one of my favorite spices.

Fernet Branca has a bitter and complex flavor and the taste is hard to describe, when you drink it the first time your senses litterally gets attacked by an immense array of flavors. Its widely known to both cure and prevent hangovers among other things, and was created by Bernardino Branca – a self-taught apothecary in Milan, who first offered Fernet-Branca to the public in 1845, marketing his product as a tonic to cure many kinds of illnes.

Maria, Bernardino’s daughter-in-law,helped the trade by advertising the product among high-society ladies as an excellent remedy for menstrual pain, and as a tonic for anxious people, stomach and headache, and finally digestif and aperitif. The italians definetily knows a thing or two, my first experiences with pain-relief of those kinds was given to me at a young age in Italy by a wise woman in the form of italian vermouth.

The company Fratelli Branca, overseen by the Branca family is still producing Fernet Branca in Milan. Fratelli Branca Distillerie claim that the recipe has remained unchanged since its invention in 1845.

The following products are produced at the Fratelli Branca distillery: Brancamenta, Stravecchio Branca, Grappas Candolini, Sensea specialty line, Caffè Borghetti, Punt e Mes, Carpano Bianco, Carpano Classico, Carpano Antica Formula and Sambuca Borghetti with the addition in 1985 of the Villa Branca Products (wine and extra virgin olive oil).

The two largest Fernet consuming places in the world are Argentina, where they drink it with coke (its even a national spirit!), and then San Fransisco where its usually followed by a chaser of ginger ale. The old time fernet contained an unknown (to me anyway) amount of opiates which surely must have helped to relieve pain in those times when modern medecine wasn`t yet invented, but nowadays there are only traces of those opiates is in the bottles.

Here is a very interesting article on the Fernet Branca from SF Weekly com, this drink came to the US in the suitcases of Italian immigrants – read:

The myth of Fernet.

One of the 3 drinks i submitted for this TDN was the Pisco Branca, which is a mix of Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch with a boost of Fernet and a hint of fresh mint. This drink became really smooth and the key here is to not use any other pineapple juice but fresh, from preferably newly matured (these are not too sweet) pineapple slices.



2 oz pineapple juice, from 1-2  slices of fresh pineapple

2 oz Pisco

1/4 oz Fernet Branca

1 whole egg

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz simple syrup

1-2 fresh apple mint leaves

Dash Angostura bitters

Blend all with ice except bitters at high speed 10 sek and pour into glass. Dash bitters on top of the foam. Garnish with a pineapple wedge. The eggs mellows the fernet and the drink isn`t bitter its rather smooth.


Everyone who has tried Fernet has some kind of relationship to this mythical drink, me i love it and i mostly sip it straight in shots, what`s yours?




  • That cocktail look delicious!
    Some people like these bitter aperifs and digestifs at their first sip,others like me, has to get used to it. Now when i like it, i love it. For me it was similar with campari.
    Seemslike there are two types of people,those who like bitter flavors and those who don`t.


  • I’ll admit it; I love a 4:1 cocktail of Fernet and Creme de Menthe. There, I said it.

  • Jenna, there are 3 types of people (to simplify it)these are non-tasters, normal and super tasters. Those that like bitter flavors are as far as i know called non-tasters and those that cannot stand those flavors are super tasters. I`m probably in the non-taster group but haven`t yet tested it. You can test yourself by using taste strips.And normal tasters seem to be somewhere in between the two others.

    You can read more here: http://www.artofdrink.com/sensory/nontasters.php

    Rick, why am i not surprised? 😉 i even might like this myself, but haven´t tried it.


  • I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  • As i didn´t have any Creme de menthe i made a shot of Fernet and Ramazotti menta, its not bad..;-)

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