Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.
Ok. We’re hitting the Fernet Branca tonight. Here we go.
I was looking for something-or-other in Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail and stumbled upon the “F” pages. The Lady Friend got her Rule 37 cocktail, the Fancy Tequila Cocktail (like a Margarita, but with orange juice), and I got mine: the Fernet Branca Cocktail. I’m a bit late to the whole Fernet Branca craze, but certainly have been an enthusiastic convert. Here’s the deal.
Fernet Branca is an Italian spirit, an amaro, very bitter and herbal, and touted as a digestif. Fernet is the TYPE of amaro (like bourbon is a type of whiskey) and Branca is the specific brand, taken from its inventor’s name, Bernardino Branca. It’s from back in 1845, and claims to have medicinal properties, again, as a digestif or stomach remedy. Listen to Bill’s story.
So, it’ll help you out in times of, shall we say, gastric distress. But seriously, it really does seem to help indigestion and such. Packed with 27 herbs at bottled 78 proof it’s bound to do SOMETHING. The flavor takes some getting used to, and most people it seems never get used to it. I personally started to enjoy it after about my third sip, but it’s wild: dark, bitter, dry, herbal (I know I know, I keep saying that, but there’s not a lot of other adjectives that cover it) and minty. Yup. It finishes kind of menthol/minty. There is a mint version (Branca Mente) as well in case the regular version isn’t minty enough. Apparently Fernet Branca is insanely popular in San Francisco, as a shot with ginger ale back, and in Argentina where they mix it with Coca Cola. It’s even become somewhat of a handshake or nod among bartenders. I like mine IN ginger ale, as a highball, on Sunday nights following a weekend of liver torture. Good for what ails ya. But here’s a cocktail version.
Fernet Branca Cocktail
From Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail
– 2 oz gin (Tanqueray)
– 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
– 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Rosso)
That’s it. No juice here, so pour it into a mixing glass, add ice, and stir.
Serve in a chilled cocktail glass (or on the rocks if you prefer) and garnish with a flamed lemon peel.
Well, based on the ingredients, it seems like it’s going to be interesting. Somewhat like a Negroni, using gin, amaro, and sweet vermouth, but the proportions are way off (Negroni is equal parts). That Fernet Branca is going to be wildly different from Campari, and there’s a lot more gin to deal with. I’m frightened. Hold me.
First impression of the aroma is of the Fernet Branca mint/menthol, with a sickly sweet floral gin essence mingling in. Fernet Branca is powerful stuff, and I think it’s going to take four times more gin to counteract it. It’s that herbal medicine with some gin.
In we go.
Bitter. Right off. Some bark and cinnamon, then various dry herbs. Dry spice, not savory. Lavender? That would be the gin coming in now with floral and citrus notes. It’s alcohol warm all the way through, and finishes minty/piney, like candy canes on a Christmas tree. It’s boozy and a flavor punch. Bitter overall, so don’t chug these down like a tiki drink. This is more like an aperitif. Or digestif. I’m not sure which. Probably both. The Fernet Branca is a renowned digestif, but vermouth is typically an aperitif. Gin is gin. Screw it: drink it whenever you want. But carefully.
Another note: serve this one in a CHILLED glass and drink it as cold as possible. I’m not sure why, but I’m getting the impression that this one would taste absolutely vile at room temperature. There’s a lot of herbs, spices, flowers, and citrus here, but it’s very very dry overall, and none of those attributes get better in a lukewarm drink. Served hot might be a different story, but tepid is going to be a train wreck.
Here’s the Lady Friend:
*Brow furrows. Bitter face.* “I get gin, an alcoholy burn, then the Fernet.”
No no no. Don’t tell me what’s in it, tell me what it TASTES like. Close your eyes, take a good sip, swirl it around in your mouth, swallow, and chew it for a second and tell me what you’re TASTING.
“Piney in the beginning. Christmas tree, alcohol, just alcohol, maybe a little grapeyness, kind of like grapey spicy though. Spicy, not like chili spice, but like cinnamony, but not like really, but more in that direction. Spicy. And I’m still tasting Christmas tree.”
Ok. Much better. Now we’ve got some adjectives. Wasn’t too far off from my impressions, but sometimes it’s a struggle to get her to use her WORDS.
So, there it is. Dry, spicy, bitter, but not bad overall. An avant ou apres repas sipper. Just don’t let it get warm.