How To Drink Fernet And Bring Out Its Herbal Flavor

Fernet, the caramel-colored Italian liqueur, packs a punch. The most well-known brand of the drink, Fernet Branca, has been tantalizing palates since 1845 with a secret recipe made from botanicals collected from around the world. Though we don't know exactly what is in the recipe, the 27 spices and herbs used to make the amaro yield a taste that could be mistaken for some kind of medicine. The flavor is akin to black licorice, and while the bitter taste might not be for every drinker, with the right presentation and combination of ingredients, some of the more herby notes of the amaro can step forward while the bitter ones stand down. 

Delivering 39% ABV, this liqueur can be put back as a shot, enjoyed straight, or mixed with Coca-Cola for an effervescent sipper. In 1903, a bartender in London first slid Hanky Panky cocktails across the bar at the Savoy Hotel, and the concoctions of sweet vermouth, gin, and fernet became quick hits among patrons. This cocktail is a great place to start to adjust your palate to the flavors of fernet, as the just-right sweetness of the drink recipe balances out the bolder notes of the amaro. New York City's PDT's Hanky Panky recipe is a solid place to start as you begin to experiment with drinking fernet at home.

A drink ingredient for those in the know

For those looking for a zippier beverage, fernet can be mixed with tequila and lime juice and topped off with ginger beer to make a La Branca. The sweetness of ginger beer rounds some of the sharper edges of fernet, whether or not you decide to add another kind of alcohol like gin or vermouth to your drink. In South America, Fernet con Cola is a common drink order, and the perfect pairing of fernet with soda comes garnished with a lemon wheel. Fernet's spicier flavors mixed with Coke's sweet bubbles may take a taste or two to get used to, but the simple recipe offers a fizzy sipper that can be adjusted to suit your tolerance for the herby inclusion. Start by adding one part fernet to three parts Cola, and taste your creation before proceeding. 

For the converted fernet lovers among us, bitter fernet can be slipped into servings of hot coffee or presented alongside a shot of espresso as a post-meal punctuation mark, particularly to finish off a heavy Thanksgiving meal. This approach is an intense one, yet after getting over the initial wallop of the libation, you, too, may feel compelled to start adding the liqueur to your next cup of black coffee.