Having become a liquid lingua franca, the category of Fernet was due for an American makeover.
Its Fernet Leopold ($36 for 750ml; click here to buy) is an altogether different animal, a cute but wild puppy to Branca's smooth and well-lived house cat. The Leopold relies on bitter aloe and spearmint as its prominent flavor agents (though more than 20 botanicals are present in the mix). The pairing of aloe and spearmint creates the untamed taste of cooling, sweet menthol with plenty of alcoholic heat--the stuff clocks in at 80 proof.
We tried it first in standard Fernet fashion: as a shot.
Which quickly proved to us that Fernet Leopold is meant for mixing. Where it is rough on its own, it sings beautifully in cocktails, sweet enough to stand in as a minty-fresh version of vermouth. It works particularly well in hearty drinks like a Flip--or do like the Argentines do and mix it with a Coke. In the latter, the cola's deep notes of sarsaparilla and mint are brought to the surface.
Fernet y Cola
Makes one drink
2 ounces Fernet Leopold
4 ounces Coca Cola
Fill a glass with ice and add the Fernet. Top with the Coca Cola and finish with a lemon twist.