Fernet-Branca: Secrets, Stories and Bartender’s Handshakes

Images and recipes courtesy of Fernet-Branca.

Skilled story-telling is a time-honored bar tradition. So, of course, is the bartender’s handshake. Fernet-Branca is a brand that lends itself to both traditions.

Edoardo Branca recently toured five cities to share the history, stories and secrets of Fernet-Branca, along with cocktails featuring the Italian liqueur. The tour consisted of an event series entitled “Storied Sips with Edoardo Branca; Secrets of an Italian Icon,” and was tied to the book Branca: A Spirited Italian Icon. Edoardo, who happens to be an Italian count, traveled to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago and New York City.

As with most anything that enjoys a rich history – the Fernet-Branca family recipe is more than 170 years old – secrets and rumors abound. The distillery’s own first-floor and second-floor workers disagree on who founded the company, Mr. Fernet (a Swedish chemist) or Mr. Branca (an herbalist). Speaking of Mr. Fernet, it’s possible no such person existed, that he was simply conjured from thin air… Despite what the general public believes about Prohibition, some spirits were legal, and Fernet-Branca was among them. After all, it was sold as a medicine back then (and is still used that way by some today). The (failed) Noble Experiment was fantastic for Fernet-Branca since they had basically no real competition to battle.

To learn more about Fernet-Branca’s storied history, grab the book and read it while enjoying a sip of the Italian liqueur. Then regale your guests with what you’ve learned over one of the cocktails below, each from one leg of the tour.



5 Continents cocktail - 5 Fernet-Branca recipes

5 Continents

Featured during San Francisco stop of tour

  • 1.5 oz. Scotch
  • 0.5 oz. Fernet Branca
  • 0.5 oz. Grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. Honey
  • 0.5 oz. Egg white
  • 2 dashes chocolate
  • Bar spoon Coconut marmalade
  • Orange peel for garnish

Dry shake. Add ice, shake, and double strain into rocks glass. Garnish with orange peel.


Hanky Panky cocktail - 5 Fernet-Branca recipes

Hanky Panky

Featured during Los Angeles stop of tour

  • 1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula
  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Fernet-Branca
  • Orange twist for garnish

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel to express oils, then use as garnish.


Shakerato cocktail - 5 Fernet-Branca recipes


Featured during Portland stop of tour

  • 0.5 oz. Fernet-Branca
  • 1 oz. Yama Cold Brew
  • 0.25 oz. House coffee liqueur
  • 0.25 Demerara syrup
  • 0.75 oz. Cream

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Single strain into a double Old Fashioned glass over a single large ice cube. You receive extra points* for using ice molded with the Fernet-Branca alligator.

For the House coffee liqueur:

  • 48 oz. Dark rum
  • 48 oz. 100-proof Vodka
  • ¾ cup of Coffee (cold brew grind)
  • 3 Oranges worth of peels
  • 1 Tbsp. of Vanilla bean paste

Combine all ingredients and let mixture sit in walk-in for 3 days. Shake container whenever someone happens to be inside the walk-in. Strain off peels and coffee grind, then add 3 cups demerara reduction (2:1 caramel syrup, reduce by half).


Toronto cocktail - 5 Fernet-Branca recipes


Featured during Chicago stop of tour

  • 2 oz. Templeton Rye
  • 0.25 oz. Fernet-Branca
  • 0.25 oz. Simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish

Combine rye, Fernet, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass, and fill with ice. Stir for 20 seconds and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over the drink and use as garnish. Get extra points* for using crystal clear ice cube prepared with edible Fernet-Branca garnish frozen inside.


Lie to Me cocktail - 5 Fernet-Branca recipes

Lie to Me

Featured during New York City stop of tour

  • 0.25 oz. Fernet-Branca
  • 1.5 oz. Rum
  • 0.5 oz. Crème du banane
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. Simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Chocolate mole bitters
  • 1 Whole egg
  • Caffé Borghetti coffee liqueur for rinse
  • Ginger cookie for garnish

Prepare a cocktail glass by rinsing with Caffé Borghetti. Set aside. Combine first 7 ingredients in a shaker and dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Garnish with shaved ginger cookie. Extra points* for using rice paper Fernet Branca garnish!


*Extra points hold no actual value but will do wonders for your self-esteem.

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