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My Ew-Like-Love Relationship With Fernet Branca

For FBE’s first Cocktails Week, we thought it would be fun for us to each share our favorite cocktail or liquor. And today Jenn is giving a big ol’ cheers to the digestif Fernet-Branca!
A few weeks ago, Ryan and I were at one of our fave bars in town for happy hour, and they had a special that had us scratching our heads. The deal was $4 Fernet Branca.
Fernet-Branca. What’s that? I asked the patient bartender.
You just have to try it, he said … and so we did. And it was weird. A dark and thick liquor, it’s sweet with the flavors of anise, chamomile and mint. So much mint. Besides what I imagine a cocktail of Listerine and Jäger to taste like, I had never tried that exact flavor combination before.
It took us both almost an hour to slowly sip on this unique flavor. (Some people shoot it like a grappa, but neither one of us felt like doing that on a late Wednesday afternoon, seeing that we’re, like, kinda adults now.) I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. Ryan seemed to not be a fan — at all. He almost had to choke his down.
But, the next day, we both confessed that we kept thinking of it. Almost in the “Hey, this smells bad, smell it” kind of way. Except — unlike things that smell bad — we were both kind of craving the taste.
It’s at this point in the post that I’d like to point out that we’re not alcoholics. We didn’t feel the need to get drunk on it, but we wanted that odd anise-chamomile-mint flavor again. It was just so … unique. And, turns out, oddly craveable. (Not to mention that along the way, I figured out it’s the stuff Alfred talks about in the end of Batman. Random.)
And so, the next time we were at Remedy, we each had another Fernet-Branca. And we both loved it. This is when Ryan and I’s love affair with Fernet-Branca really began.

Credit: Paul Sableman, Flickr

Fernet-Branca al fresco? Pour me a tiny glass, please. Credit: Paul Sableman, Flickr

Smart phones out, we researched what the heck Fernet-Branca is. Turns out, Fernet-Branca was developed in Milan in 1845 as a stomach medicine and is a 45-percent alcohol elixir made with a mix of herbs like myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe and saffron, with a base of grape-distilled spirits. While Fernet-Branca is the most popular brand, Fernet itself is a general type of liquor that’s usually served as a digestif after a meal, but is sometimes also mixed in cocktails and espresso.
You know where this is going, right?
A few more sips and our heads full of newly learned Fernet knowledge, we quickly made plans to buy a few bottles of our own (not exactly easy to find in liquor stores here, by the way) and got to mixing. It was fun in espresso and fabulous after meals or as a palate cleanser (I wouldn’t exactly call it “healthy,” but it does seem to help digestion!), but it was absolutely fabulous in an Old Fashioned. And, as I was delighted to learn on my birthday, it was an integral part in a drink I LOVE: the Toronto.

Lighten your usual Old Fashioned up with a little Fernet. Credit: Sam Howzit, Flickr

Lighten your usual Old Fashioned up with a little Fernet. Credit: Sam Howzit, Flickr

So, yeah, I’m declaring 2014 the year of the Fernet. When it comes to cocktails and liquors, it’s clearly my favorite discovery of late!
Have you ever tried something you weren’t sure of, only to find yourself craving it like mad later? For the record, I did the same thing the first times I tried coffee and curry! —Jenn

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