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Fernet Branca

It's mind-baffling how this Italian digestif, which is so popular with San Francisco bartenders, is SO hard to find anywhere else! Most specifically, I'm trying to find it in DC. Any help? I did find one liquor store that carries it. I'm now looking for a bar so I can enjoy it when I'm out. Any help is appreciated. You can read more specifics here: http://www.yelp.com/user_details_revi...

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    1. What's amazing about that stuff is that it really works. I had some after a big dinner. By the time I finished my drink, I felt, yes, refreshed.

      1. You can order it on bevmo.com (I don't know if there are Beverages&More branches in DC).

        I hear you; it's hard to find a lot of things outside of SF!

        1. Try Averna. It's a better tasting Sicilian digestive. I've been drinking it since I was 8.

          3 Replies
          1. re: 2top

            Better tasting in what way? I actually like Fernet, though I can see why others find it vile. What does Avema taste like, and is it widely available?

            1. re: Pei

              layman's answer: tastes like a cross between cola and punt y mes. Nonino amaro is even better.

              1. re: Pei

                Averna tastes like a delicious, not-too-sweet root beer, to me. I like it.

                I *love* Fernet Branca. I'm probably the only Chinese restaurant in the country (or, maybe, outside of San Francisco) that stocks this liqueur. When a customer comes in and complains of no appetite or a sour stomach, I put an ounce or two of Fernet in club soda, no ice, and beseech the customer to drink it down but it's going to taste like medicine. They feel better (and hungry) in minutes! Remarkably, two of the Fernet "newbies" actually said they thought it was very, very refreshing, and that they'd have it again.

            2. "Inky soy-mahogany. Flowers, fresh herbs, licorice and mince meat. Rich texture. Lovely sensuous palate of wild, alpine fresh spice and succulent flavors. Very concentrated with a firm, yet silky presence on the palate and into the very deep, lingering finish." - Tastings.com

              It's a full body smooth taste with its sweetness offset by complex bitter herbs. I see it in most Italian restaurants from Boston to Miami.

                1. also try the fernet branca mint - less bitter, and IMO more refreshing - I sometimes mix with club soda too

                  1. there are two kinds of amari, strong and mild (or half-bitter). the strong has more alcohol, more bitterness, and less sweetness. fernets are strong and averna is one of many brands of mild amari. if you like the strong stuff, try underberg. it's usually sold in gourmet stores, not liquor stores.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: warrenr

                      Underberg's the stuff they sell in three-packs of those little tiny bottles, right? Like 35ml tiny. That's got a nice punch too. I got a bottle of something called "Swedish Bitters" (though it's made in Germany) from a health food store a long time ago that was similar. Europe is just crawling with weird local herbal concoctions that never see the light of day here. But Branca is the bestest.

                    2. How do you use this? I have a bottle.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Cinnamon

                        It's a digestif. You sip a small amount after dinner to help settle your stomach. You can also sip or mix a small amount with seltzer before dinner as an aperitif. It's a bitter mixture of herbs and is very calming to the stomach.

                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          I bought a bottle of Fernet after reading it was an important part of the worlds only true hangover cure. Some series I don't remember involving aspirin, coke, fernet, etc.
                          I found a bottle at a local liquor store. They only had one gathering dust and seemed real happy that someone wanted to buy it. The owner actually said to the clerk, "don't re-order".
                          Anyway, it worked as a hangover cure in that if you make yourself drink it anytime you're hungover, you'll never get hungover again. I'm sure it's an aquired taste for some, but I drank that bottle myself over about a year and never aquired a taste for it. A little like Vicks 44 with a shot of Everclear.

                          1. re: Bobfrmia

                            Thanks both. I have to agree re the taste. Angostura bitters I love. This was a challenge.

                        2. I can never understand people who don't like Fernet. So much delicious in one little shot. Must be an SF thing...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: fistalee

                            People either love it or hate it, it seems. I've never seen anyone have a lukewarm response.

                            1. re: Pei

                              Unfortunately, I am a truist where I feel that things shoul be drunken by the purpose they are made which is straight or with out mixers. Fernet can be rough at first but with very little time it can definitely be enjoyed solo and brings to life new things while enjoying other liquors and liquers. Everyones first experience is always one way or another but with more than one experience you will learn.

                              1. re: Fun_to_ring

                                "Unfortunately, I am a truist where I feel that things shoul be drunken by the purpose they are made which is straight or with out mixers."

                                Really? I like Fernet neat just fine, but I think it's a mistake to thing that, say, gin should never become a gin and tonic or a martini. Fernet and soda is similarly great. It's also fine neat in a cordial glass, but I would hate to see that be the only way it's served.

                                1. re: Fun_to_ring

                                  There's a long tradition of mixing Fernet into long drinks and shaker cocktails. The Hanky Panky dates to Prohibition. Fernet and Coke is practically the national cooler of Argentina.


                            2. Fernet is all the rage in Boston too!

                              1. Boston? Miami? What about DC? Even Italian restaurants don't seem to carry it.

                                I usually sip my shot of Fernet, with a "ginger back" (ginger ale chaser). The quest continues...

                                1. After a night of drinking there is nothing better... but you are right outside CA it is hard to find.

                                  1. No problem finding Fernet Branca in NYC. Warehouse Liquors on Bway has it.
                                    I have a bottle of Averna. Do I need FB?

                                    Another question: any ideas for cocktails using Averna or FB? I tried substituting Averna for the Campari in a Negroni and it was like I poured coca-cola into my Negroni. I will try again, tweaking the proportions. Other ideas?

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: kenito799

                                      Try a Toronto cocktail:
                                      1 1/2 oz rye
                                      1/2 oz Fernet Branca
                                      splash simple syrup
                                      2 dashes Angostura bitters

                                      1. re: Alcachofa

                                        Found this on Jamesonwhiskey.com
                                        Looks good, and should pack quite a punch

                                        Blackthorn Cocktail

                                        1 part Jameson
                                        1 part Lillet Blanc or similar French Vermouth
                                        Dash Pernod Absinthe
                                        Dash Angostura Bitters


                                        Stir all the ingredients on ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

                                      2. re: kenito799

                                        In Argentina they drink Fernet and Coke all the time. But when I tried to order it neat or "puro" they looked at me like I had 3 heads.

                                      3. We had our Christmas party yesterday, which meant a long night of eating and drinking, I finished off the celebration with some Fernet, which by the way was wonderful and I am not referring to the taste, it just makes you feel better even the day after.

                                        1. This was a long time ago, but did you find it anywhere in DC? I've been looking for it too.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: kmday

                                            I believe Calvert Woodley by the Van Ness Metro Stop has it - they have it listed on their website...

                                          2. Have you tried Bourbon in Adams Morgan? I'm pretty sure they have it there...

                                            1. I've never had fernet, and I'm not lookign to acquire any more bottles for my bar right now. What's a more suitable sub, Cinzano Rosse or yellow chartreuse?

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: joshuaresnick

                                                Neither of those would be a suitable substitute. It's the most intense of the amari that you can get here in the States. Nothing else has its flavor profile, although if you're going for a rosso as some sort of a sub, you'd want Carpano Antica (also a Fernet brand). Still, Branca is in a class of its own.

                                                1. re: marais

                                                  I think Zwack's Unicum is more intense. Not sure if it's widely available.

                                                  1. re: Frolic

                                                    Zwack is sweeter than fernet and is slightly harder to enjoy from what I have found. It does have a better history and story but the residual sugar makes it less appealing

                                                    1. re: Fun_to_ring

                                                      Unicum is the original, and there is nothing sweet about it. It's also really hard to find in the U.S.

                                                      Unicum Next (known as Zwack in the U.S.) is a sweeter version that's more widely distributed in the U.S. That's probably what you had.

                                                      1. re: Frolic

                                                        Exactly. Many people get them mixed up. Zwack is the company that makes them. Unicum and Zwack get confused because of the differing brands in the US vs Europe. Unicum is very bitter, Unicum Next is branded as Zwack in the US and is much lighter, sweeter, and more citrusy, and they also made a special edition called Millenicum which is both stronger and sweeter than Unicum, and then there is Zwack Frissitők which is supposedly a pineapple-based version, which I haven't tried. US Zwack is pretty easy to find, but Unicum in the US is hard to get your hands on.

                                              2. My advice is to find a store that sells it and drink it straight. Once you've had it a few times you will begin to enjoy it. Mixing it makes it sweeter and at that point you may enjoy Zwack which is Hungarian. Drinking Fernet straight will open your eyes and expand your palette increasing your enjoyment of more than you think. Fernet is said to be enjoyed by those with the most extinguished of palettes.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Fun_to_ring

                                                  "Fernet is said to be enjoyed by those with the most extinguished of palettes [sic]."

                                                  A slip, no doubt, but I tend to agree. It will certainly "extinguish" your palate. Which is one of the reasons that it's a great digestif. Now as for what I think you meant -- "distinguished" -- I can't say I buy into that. It's medicinal tasting on the best of days and despite the fact that I happen to love it I can certainly understand that it's a difficult thing to enjoy. Failure to do so doesn't mean that you lack culinary sense.

                                                  1. re: Fun_to_ring

                                                    It is my firm belief :) that "extinguished" was not a typo, as it is one of the wittiest quips that I've ever read. Fun_to_ring is my new forum hero.

                                                    I wouldn't say that I love Fernet Branca / Luxardo Fernet, or even Menta. I have sipped them all neat, and mixed some of them with soda and lime, as well as of course in cocktails. In the right amount, they lend complexity that I appreciate. To my taste, they are quite different from Campari / Aperol / Cynar / Stock Fernet Citrus, all of which I can happily sip on the rock without further dilution.

                                                    Part of my issue is that the mint flavor is menthol, rather than regular mint. It has a Vap-o-rub aspect that is a bit hard for me to get around. The bitter part is fine as I like that. I feel the same way about Chartreuse and Maraschino -- a little goes a long way in a cocktail, whereas with Campari, a lot goes a little way.

                                                    As for Zwack, I'm pretty sure Fun is referring to the Unicum real-deal, which is unavailable in the US, rather than the sweet-and-not-very-bitter Zwack Liqueur that we get (and is apparently called Next elsewhere). The liqueur takes a lot of acid to balance the massive sugar load.