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Best price in Boston on Fernet-Branca?

I'd like to thank the local bartender community for putting Fernet-Branca on the map in Boston (first by being avid consumers, second by being an example to other drinkers). With its much greater popularity in recent years, I no longer have to carry around a list of a small handful of places that serve it: it's available at a lot more bars in town, not just Italian caffes and high-end Italian restaurants.

Meanwhile, or as a result, it has gotten much more expensive at retail. I no longer have to special-order it at my local liquor store, which now keeps it in stock, but charges $34 for a 750ml. Partly that's what the market will bear, partly the new liquor tax, but does anyone carry it for under $30 these days?

http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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  1. Over the summer I stumbled upon it at the liquor store near Roxbury Crossing for $25 however I think this was an anomaly. Usually anything around the $34 you quote I consider to be a good deal.

    1. Thought I might have seen it for $20-something at Kappy's by Whole Foods in Alewife over the weekend. But I only glanced quickly...

      7 Replies
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        If you are into amari, I've had the best luck with variety at Atlas in Newton.. I've gotten 3-4 types - Montenegro, s. Maria al Monte, and Amaro Nonino in the past.... but they still are tricky to find..

        1. re: grant.cook

          If you're an amaro freak like I am, be sure to check out Cirace's in the North End, too. Great selection there.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I am also an amaro freak and they have an equally great selection at the Wild duck on Salem St. I just picked up a bottle of Fernet last night for $28.99. They also have Amaro Santa Maria Al Monte which is excellent as well as the usual suspects.

            1. re: phatchris

              Wild Duck? The place with all the "Yankees Suck!" t-shirts out front? Wow! Never would have thought to step in there! Must check it out: thanks for the tip!

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Wild Duck has been completely redone and has a great wine selection. I'm not much of a beer drinker but the selection looks good. Kevin and Kelly from the Wine Bottega are involved. They opened a second, smaller place..Bottle?? on Commercial across from Battery Wharf.

                I've been buying Fernet and similar at Cirace's too. Bina carries it for $34

                1. re: 9lives

                  The beer selection borders on being insane for a place with so little room to stock.

          2. re: grant.cook

            Atlas in Medford had it yesterday at $27.49

        2. And not sure where you live, but there's a place in Norwood on Rt 1 - Bon Caldo - that has like 10-11 varieties available.. the owner like to carry a broad stock..

          1. I usually buy it at The Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville. $29.99 there last time I checked.

            1. Not much help in Boston, but at Table and Vine in West Springfield, they had it for $28.99.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nsenada

                Outside of Boston here also, but I saw it at Yankee Spirits, in Sturbridge, for $24.99 last night.

              2. It's $29.99 at most places in Somerville.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: yarm

                    Yeah Somerville! I love that the markup is lower in my 'hood.

                  2. re: crazycrazypete

                    I picked some up at Cambridge Mall Liquors for 29.99, regular price. Not bad for not-on-sale Fernet.

                  3. $24.99 at two New Hampshire liquor stores in the middle of nowhere. Sigh!
                    http://nh.liquor.state.nh.us/public/d...

                    p.s. I really liked your column about Jagermeister's sophisticated past.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: djd

                      I haven't been to Germany lately, but I wonder what they'd think of how Americans drink Jagermeister these days. Its hyping into a favored frat-boy shot is one of the great marketing success stories in the liquor biz of the past couple of decades, but I was sorry to see it get consigned into the same level of idiot drinks as root-beer-flavored schnapps shooters. It remains a very effective digestif, so if I'm in distress from eating too much fried food or animal fat and there's no other bitters in sight, I will order one and produce my license when asked.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        I was in Munich about 4 years ago for work. It was back when I was just starting to have a higher than college-level appreciation for beer, but didn't know much about harder liquor or cocktails. A friend/co-worker and I ended up at a bar called Sausalitos. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be the kind of place where "Sprichst du Englisch" was a great pickup line. We were talking to two very cute German girls, when my friend suggested getting some Jaegermeister. We got four glasses of it, did the whole cheers thing, and then my friend and I both pounded it back. The girls took some little sips and then looked at us like we were total idiots. We sheepishly asked "Oh, you don't shoot this in Germany?" They started talking to the tall German guy they had been ignoring for the past 30 minutes shortly after.

                    2. Good timing- I was just thinking of whipping up some Torontos this weekend!

                      1. Atlas on the Quincy/Milton border on Adams Street has it for $27.49, plus the new tax. It is great stuff, and worth the adjustment in taste and price.

                        1. $28 at Reservoir Wine & Spirits in Cleveland Circle, next to Pino's.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. $28 at Wild Duck in the North End. They also have Santa Maria al Monte, my new second-favorite amaro.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            1 Reply
                            1. Cirace's in the North End for $26.99. They had the Menta as well (but closer to $31 I believe).

                              http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: yarm

                                Funny, despite being a Fernet Branca fan for a couple of decades now, I remember absolutely loathing Branca Menta the first time I tried it, remember thinking it was like the bastard child of Fernet and Scope, spent years trying to get rid of that bottle.

                                I sampled it again recently (a friend served me some, didn't even realize he'd bought Menta by mistake until I insisted that what I was drinking was not Fernet), and I've decided it's pretty good, if, like a lot of amari, a tad on the sweet side for my tastes.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                1. re: yarm

                                  Just picked up a bottle for 26.99 at Martignetti's on Soldier's Field ROOOOOAD.

                                2. I've never tried Fernet Branca, but after a particularly nice lunch at Cafe Latino -- mofongo, cold yucca salad, arroz y habichuelas, and etc, etc... -- I quite innocently find myself curious about digestifs. Also, so that 35% of the things that MC Slim JB says will no longer be a mystery to me.

                                  Based on what I've seen in this (old) thread, I'm going by Wild Duck after work. Whoever is here now has an hour to recommend a brand or type. Don't go easy. Give me the real thing.

                                  22 Replies
                                  1. re: FinnFPM

                                    Oh. I get it. Branca IS the brand.

                                    Anyway, it's $33 at Boston Wine Exchange. Didn't have time to make it to Wild Duck, but BWX is my "neighborhood" store anyway.

                                    1. re: FinnFPM

                                      So ironic that this thread came up now. I have a bottle of FB (that I brought back from France 30 yrs ago)that I only hauled up from the cellar yesterday- to take for some stomach problems. I learned about it from a homeopathic pharmacist friend and from a Parisian bartender who sent some out to me (sitting on the curb after i had started to faint in his restnt late on a wicked hot July night.) It did the trick. My Swiss pharmacist friend took a shot every morning as a general health practice. MC, you just drink it because you like the flavor?
                                      I thought i had read, or seen a film reference, that it had recently become a 'chic' drink at NYC bars.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          I started drinking Fernet-Branca for its digestive properties some 20 years ago, when Jagermeister (my previous favorite for that purpose) became a frat-boy shooter thanks to the marketing genius of one Sidney Frank, whose next act was inventing the super-premium vodka category.

                                          I only came to love its flavor after drinking it for a few years. It has been an industry insider's favorite for seven or eight years now, starting in San Francisco. The Argentines really love it, make a highball of it with Coca-Cola.

                                          It's so assertive that I generally start friends who like the idea of digestive bitters with something less fierce, with more sugar, like Averna. Another one I like in the Fernet range but is a slight step down in ferocity is Santa Maria al Monte. But I love the general potable bitters category (stuff you sip as opposed to just dribbling into cocktails, though I have a bunch of those too); I keep a couple dozen around at home, mostly Italian amari, which really annoys Mrs. MC for space reasons, though she will partake of said slightly sweeter ones occasionally, like Meletti and Abano.

                                          Fernet is a category with many brands. I have Stock and a Czech one (Jelinek) as well. S. Maria might be considered one, even though Fernet is not in the name.

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            I actually was a little bit disappointed with the assertiveness. All of my research led me to believe that it would be like being punched in the nose and then soothed by a buxom nurse. Really, though, it's not quite so overwhelming. I'm a liquor lightweight, so if I can drink the stuff straight, it's really not all that whopping.

                                            It's very interesting, though, and enjoyable. I'm a fan. I'll continue to explore it.

                                              1. re: FinnFPM

                                                Your palate is tougher than the average bear's, Finn. I've never seen a first-time Fernet drinker not make a face like someone just made a particularly awful pun. "Fernet? More like Fer-Fook's-Sake, amirite?"

                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  I loved it the first time I had it, although I realize that makes me a weirdo. I was always a huge fan of moxie and enjoyed things like jager but always felt both were too sweet. FB was like finding that thing you've always been looking for.

                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Its less popular in Brazil than Argentina, but there are at least 3 Brazilian fernets which are sold widely (all from Sao Paulo where bitters and digestifs are more common). Campari is the bitter which is preferred nationally and the Campari company (?) produces Campari, Cynar, Aperol, as well as mixers and spirits locally in Brazil. Of course cachaca infusions and wine concoctions made with Brazilian herbs are quite common (some for digestive properties, many just for intoxicating properties, but others for uh "performance" effects).

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  Another good sweet "starter" amaro is Amaro del Capo! Also available at Cirace I believe.

                                                  1. re: Bugsey34

                                                    That's one I don't know, though Cirace is always great for finds like that, easily the best amaro selection in town. I will look for it; thanks for the tip!

                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                      here's a Cirace q from a now out-of-towner: do you know if they happen to carry nocino, the Italian green walnut liqueur? this is one thing I can't seem to find at Yankee Liquors in Attleboro. (where I also think I paid pretty close to 30$ for fernet-branca, fwiw).

                                                      1. re: passing thru

                                                        Not sure about nocino at Cirace, but I have seen a very similar Austrian product called Nux Alpina around town.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            for reference's sake I'll just note that I finally checked this place out (I can't believe I never had before...) and they do, in fact, carry a nice Italian nocino. The selection of amari is pretty great too, I bought a bottle of Amaro Sibilla too while I was there. Awesome store.

                                                          2. re: passing thru

                                                            Blanchard's in JP offers a walnut-based liqueur. I think it's made in the Swiss Alps

                                                        1. re: Bugsey34

                                                          Meletti amaro is a good gateway drug to more assertive amari (amare?).

                                                          It's herbal and caramel sweet like Amaretto but in a good way.

                                                          Incidentally, after seeing mention of it on this board as not available in the U.S., I recently procured a bottle of Rucolini, the Sardinian arugula-based amaro. It's good stuff, better tasting and milder than you might think when you hear arugula-based liquor, but seems to have a very ...er...certain strong digestive effect. ;)

                                                          I can't stand the taste of Fernet...and I can't stop drinking it!

                                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                            I think the Nardini Amaroi is a great gateway amaro. Really a wonderful drink, less aggressive than Fernet but hardly a wallflower. Unfortunately not always easy to find.

                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Interesting, I find S. Maria to be MORE assertive than Fernet Branca, just in different ways. It's drier -- which I definitely appreciate -- and also bitterer. It lacks a lot of the menthol punch of Fernet Branca, so in that way it packs less of a flavor hit, but the bitterness more than makes up for it. Good stuff, in my humble opinion.

                                                          Agreed with others who've mentioned Nardini as another fairly assertive choice.

                                                          On the topic of gateway amari, my suggestions:

                                                          A) Amaro Mio. Fairly sweet. Quite viscous (might say syrupy). Ultra smooth, with a lot of cocoa notes. Really delicious in my opinion.
                                                          B) Amaro Lucano. Also on the sweet side. Interesting cola notes, some bitterness. Not something I drink often these days but this one really got me hooked when I first started with amari.
                                                          C) Amaro Nonino. Complex and spicy, somewhat drier than many of the standards (e.g. Averna, Ramazzoti). Not extremely bitter. Really nice and easy to drink.

                                                          By the way, the Branca Menta works very nicely as a stand-in for creme de menthe, if you don't mind the darker color in your drink.

                                                        3. re: opinionatedchef

                                                          Campari works even better for me for settling my gi tract after super-rich meals, though I don't enjoy the flavor as much as Fernet.

                                                          1. re: nsenada

                                                            Do you drink Campari neat? I've never done that.

                                                    2. where did you find the jelinek? just had it at first printer, was quite happy with it and (online) looks super cheap.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: valcfield

                                                        Sorry, brought the R. Jelínek Fernet back from Prague; I'm not sure I've seen it at retail in Greater Boston. It is imported into the US; I'll keep an eye out for it.

                                                        Did find Fernet-Branca at Martignetti's for $27 recently, and they also have the Italian version of Fernet Stock (there's a Czech one, as well, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn the formulations are different.)

                                                        Noticed Fernet Leopold Highland Amaro for the first time, an American fernet from Colorado, at Liquor World, the Porter Square store around the corner from Yume Wo Katare. It's very nice, reminds me quite a bit of Branca, perhaps a bit mintier, and retails there for $38. They also carry Stock for $24 and Branca for $32.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Thanks for the heads up on the Highland. As of today they have that, Branca & the Luxardo product, at least from what I saw.

                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            got it thanks- i had it in a drink at first printer, who alluded to the fact that someone around here sells it retail, but they played coy when i asked who (not sure if it was intentional or just covering up bc he didn't know where they got it).

                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              The guy who runs Liquor World is a big amaro/bitters fan; he told me he's proud to be one of the only places in the area to carry Bitter Truth E*X*R (which is very tasty) and their other liqueurs. I saw their wide selection there today but wasn't sure where to start --- is Fernet-Branca still the best entry point? It was $36 there today. I'm no stranger to bitter drinks; I've got little Underberg bottles in the kitchen :)

                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                Branca is punch-in-the-nose bitter if you aren't used to concentrated bitter favors. If you're already an amaro fan and are looking for an entry point into Fernet-style amari, which offer almost no sugar to balance the bitterness, I recommend Santa Maria al Monte, which has all the virtues of the Fernet family but is just slightly smoother and gentler.

                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                  Really? Did not know that about Liquor World. Will have to pop in for a chat and a look-see.

                                                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                    Liquor World in Porter Square has an interesting selection, including many bottles you don't often see elsewhere, but, man, its prices are just about the highest around. I only buy there if they have something not sold anywhere else.

                                                              2. Just picked up a bottle last night at Yankee Spirits in South Attleboro - $26.99.

                                                                1. Hey, just finished my first bottle of Fernet ! I feel special. :)

                                                                  1. Check out Kappy's- I find they have the best price on almost everything. Go to a big one like the one in Medford. Selection has gotten way better over the past year or two as well in wine, beer and booze.

                                                                    1. well to answer my own question from way back, fernet jelinek can be found for 20 bucks at ball square fine wine. branca is a classic, and for end of the night great, but i think the jelinek is a bit better of an intro fernet/sipping fernet/plays well with others fernet.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: valcfield

                                                                        Missed this post back in February, but I lovingly brought a bottle of Fernet Jelínek back from the Czech Republic a couple of years ago and have been treating it like the last beluga on earth. Good to know!

                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                      2. Reviving this thread, Gary's Liquors in Chestnut Hill has it on sale this week for $21.99

                                                                        http://garysliquors.com/liquor.asp