Wednesday, February 26, 2014

While you all cast on for your Creme de Menthe scarves, some cocktail thoughts.     

I was walking into a bookstore when I noticed this sweet little liquor store on High Street in Medford last week.  It was tiny and crowded and the floorboards had that good, creaky sound they have when they have been walked on for decades.  I saw shelves piled high, a detailed tin ceiling, those big vintage lighting fixtures, and an adorable old man behind the counter, so I had to walk in, right?

And I couldn't leave empty handed, so I went to the liquor wall and looked for something I'd never tried before, with a cool name that might come in handy sometime in the future.

I walked out with the Fernet Branca.  To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, as the label isn't exactly helpful, since it's all in Italian -- except the part on back that says "a unique liqueur, made in Italy."  But it was interesting and not too spendy and hey -- tax deductible, right?

So I went home and Instagrammed my purchase, and Kay Gardiner asked if I could "not make it taste like Lysol".  Uh oh..... Then I checked online.  Uh oh again.  Imbibe magazine had the best description ever:

"Most liqueurs are gentle, sweet and eager to please, like helpful Boy Scouts in a bottle. Fernet Branca is no Boy Scout. A bombastically bitter Italian liqueur, Fernet Branca is an alpha-dog amaro so powerfully laced with pungent botanicals that grimacing attempts at describing its flavor have dotted everything from Bill Cosby’s standup routine to the YouTube commentary of disbelieving wine tasters" 

Oh good, right?  Sounding tasty yet?

Imbibe informs me:  "Fernet Branca is flavored with around 40 roots, herbs, spices and other ingredients, including gentian, myrrh, chamomile and saffron. Redolent with the herbaceous aroma of menthol and eucalyptus, Fernet Branca has a bitter complexity that is jarring on first experience, and bracingly alluring with each subsequent encounter.

What that really means is that at first, it's terrible but then you get used to it.  Like coffee.  And surprisingly, I have.  Kay said Lysol, Craig said medicine. I absolutely cringed when I took that first shot.  Now, however, I think it's kind of amazing - and a little shot of it brightens a drink up.  Let's say -  Zesty!

In Argentina, they like to mix it with Coke and in San Francisco, a "bartenders handshake" is a shot of this with a chaser of ginger ale.   After pairing it with a lot of things in the pantry, we decided the more flavor the other ingredients have the better.  And, the more booze.

So far, this is our favorite:

1.75 oz bourbon
1 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz dark rum
shake of orange bitters

Put ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake.  Then pour into small glass over ice.  Craig likes it just like that.   I need a little something more, so I add a about 3 ounces of Izze's Sparkling Apple Soda.  (This works with almost any Izze's, by the way)  Be careful though, this drink is more of a entire TV show sipper. With all that booze, you need to go slow, as it's got a little kick.

The mixing with Coke is good, and the mixing with Coke and bourbon or Coke and Rum is also good, but I'm not a huge Coke fan, so I prefer the combination above.  


Another one that worked was the Toronto:

2 oz rye
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz simple syrup
1 shake of Angostura bitters
slice of lemon and twist

Shake rye, FB, bitters and syrup in shaker with ice.  Rim the glass with lemon before pouring drink into it, and add lemon twist.   Again, a sipper.   And you really do have to embrace the taste of the stuff.

One more way in which we liked it was to  just add a bit into a gin and tonic with a little fresh orange  squeezed in - adds just a tiny kick to the usual drink.

And the next thing I want to try it with is the Cinotto - and some lemon flavored seltzer.  Do any of you have any recipes for this one that you like?  I'd love to give them a try....


Dayana Knits said...

Loooove Fernet Branca, but definitely an acquired taste. I usually order it on the rocks when I want a drink to last a very long time at the bar. As in, I don't feel like drinking too much or spending a ton, but I need me a good flavorful drink.

Love the bourbon recipe, I'm definitely going to give it a try. TONIGHT.

I'm also going to start posting drinks I love on my blog, too. I started blogging relatively recently so I haven't decided on whether to write about other things, but seriously, it's my other hobby next to knitting!

Thea said...

Go for it Dayana! Start with what you like and see if you feel like adding other topics as you go. Your blog = your rules.

Thea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dayana Knits said...

Hells yeah! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

judy said...

Love Fernet just the way it is. Great after a meal.

Dorothy said...

And now I super wish I still lived in Medford so I could have attended that knit night.

And that shop next door is great! But, my heart really belongs to Kappy's.

Thea said...

Kappy's is always awesome.

I wasn't even there for knitnight! I was buying books :)

Unknown said...

My Croatian husband loves it on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon. It's an acquired taste for sure, but it does do wonders on an uncomfortable tummy. Medicine!

Unknown said...

Oh, and the name's Ashley, not unknown. Not sure how to fix that :)

Sarah said...

Never tasted this, but the description you posted reminds me a little of the German Jaegermeister. Herbal and medicinal. I have a drink recipe courtesy of a book called "Cooking with Booze" (yes, all recipes call for alcohol and have an accompanying drink recipe). It's Jaegermeister, vodka, rootbeer and a splash of lemon juice. "Deerhunter" is the name, I think.

Hilary said...

Ahhhhh, Fernet. Good times. I first learned of Fernet when I lived in the Mission with an awesome roommate in my single gal days. She and her boyfriend had gone to a shady bar (the Dover on 26th and Valencia) after eating some undercooked chicken wings at an even shadier pub down the street. They asked the bartender if she could give them anything to counteract the potentially harmful chicken...and she gave them Fernet. Her claim was that, of all liquors, Fernet is the most likely to kill anything unsavory living in your stomach. They didn't end up with food poisoning, so maybe she was right.

Also, I blame Fernet for making me throw up all over the floor at Kel's in North Beach the night of my bachelorette party. (Bet you're so glad to know that!!)