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Ancient Fernet-Branca... Drink or Display?

OK, I moved into a house eight years ago that was a summer cottage for an Italian family from San Francisco. They'd built it in 1948, and had owned it ever since. When they sold it to me, they left many unlabeled bottles of homemade hooch, and two sealed bottles of very very old Fernet-Branca.

OK boozehounds: Do I drink it, or display it? (I know, I know, with two bottles, I could do both, but what do you wise ones think? Is it still any good?)

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  1. Of course you have to try it!! How can you not have opened one yet? Send one to me!

    1. It is likely VERY good. How old is it? Don't chug the stuff, but don't ruin it by placing under hot lights on a mantle somewhere.

      1. I would do a taste comparison with a new bottle and then post about it.

        1. So does anyone know how old that thing is? I did a quick search online and I couldn't find a time lime of sorts with any label history. You could likely get a pretty penny for one of those bottles if you were to sell it. It could probably do well at auction. What a great find!


          1. I'm a Fernet Branca lover, and I would guess this stuff has a shelf life of 2000 years. Looks like Gravy Master, tastes like poison, no better digestif I've found on the planet.

            1. Frankly, I've always thought that Fernet tastes more like DELICIOUS than poison. If I had those two bottles, I would definitely open one of them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fistalee

                Actuallly, I only describe it as tasting like poison to the uninitiated. I have come to love the flavor over time, which I suspect is partly a Pavlovian response to the expected relief that Fernet delivers so quickly from agita.

                Branca Menta, however, tastes like Scope dragged through radioactive mud.

              2. I like the taste comparison idea. I wonder if the formula is even the same- the label on this bottle makes it sound pretty potent, it reads:

                "STIMULANT TO THE APPETITE. Contains alcohol by volume 39%, aloes, cinchona bark, gentian, rhubarb, zedoary, calumba, agaric, galangal, bryonia, calamus, angelica, myrrh, chamomile, and peppermint.

                Recommended and used in every country of the world as a bitter and stimulant to the appetite.

                Dose for adults: One teaspoon before noon, and evening meals as a bitter stimulant to the appetite only when needed.

                CAUTION: An over-dose of Fernet-Branca may produce a laxative effect. No laxative should be taken continuously in order to avoid dependence on drugs and never take a laxative in case of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or other signs of appendicitis.

                Manufactured by Fratelli Branca & Co., Inc. New York, NY

                2 Replies
                1. re: jackie

                  Ha. I don't think the present version has that warning, but it should! I know that the present recipe contains saffron, and the producers of Fernet account for 75% of the world's consumption of saffron.

                  Here's an interesting piece on San Francisco's love affair with Fernet:


                  1. re: fistalee

                    Interesting! Luxardo makes an amaro also called Fernet that prominently lists beet molasses on the label as the key ingredient, probably cheaper than including lots of saffron (though there's some of that in there too.) It's an inferior product to Fernet Branca, in my view.

                2. What did you do? Was it still good? Inquiring minds and all that.

                  1. As I was trying to search how old a bottle of fernet branca was that I found in my garage I came upon these postings.. the label on this bottle is the closest to mine that I have found anywhere.. it looks from whats posted here to be the exact bottle I have.. I have listed this on ebay... I have no interest in tasting it.. actually I had no clue what it was when I found it.. I would LOVE ta know if anyone could do better than I did and find a date for this.. I am so curious....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rickp

                      I know a dealer who handles stuff like that. He can get the best price, and probably date it for you.


                    2. I also just found an old bottle of Fernet Branca. Sent an E-mail off to the Mfg to see if they know. Bottom of the bottle has a "44" on it - 1944 ?