Bartenders' Semi-Secret, Longstanding Love Of Fernet

Originally produced as medicine, Fernet-Branca was consumed in bulk during America's Prohibition, according to Chilled Magazine, as it could be purchased when few other medicinal spirits could be found. In Argentina, Fernet-Branca and cola has been named the nation's official drink, and Argentinians guzzle the libation more than any other nationality (per The Atlantic). Not to mention, the 80-proof fernet carries a reputation as a hangover cure.

Though the entire list of ingredients is a secret known only to the Fernet-Branca brand, a few of the 27 herbs used in production have been made public: South African aloe, French gentian, Chinese rhubarb, and Italian chamomile, all aged in oak for at least 12 months (via Chilled Magazine). Yet even more interesting is the fact that this grape-based Italian amaro, as described by National Geographic, has become a nod of appreciation among bartenders. In environments where shots are considered something of professional recognition, Serious Eats notes that Fernet-Branca has become part of the conversation.

A label recognized by professionals

"Fernet is a handshake, a secret password that proves you're a real bartender. It is a unique product for unique bartenders," Michele Montauti of Miky's in Thailand told Fernet-Branca. In the United States, the association of fernet seems to have come out of San Francisco, where bartenders in the North Beach area introduced the drink to the Italian-rich community, and the unique taste quickly spread (via Chilled Magazine).

And it's not just the alcohol itself, there are actual physical coins exchanged within bartending circles. First created in 2013, fernet coins have been passed around bartending communities, slid across wooden bars, and traded among cocktail-slinging drink masters (via Fernet-Branca). When Fernet Branca recognized the close-knit bartending community and their love for the drink, the brand set about organizing and promoting The Barback Games in major cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago to emphasize the label's support of the bartending profession (via Fernet-Branca). So the next time you see a special-looking coin slid across a bar surface and a look of recognition from the bartender, you, too, will be in the know.