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Martini Rosso + Fernet Branca = substitue for Carpano Antico?

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Well obviously not ... but I recently ran out of Carpano (and not quite ready for another online order of quality hooch) so I picked up a bottle of the good ol' Martini Rosso at the supermarket. Unfortunately the Carpano has sort of ruined me (even in a Negroni I could clearly distinguish the Martini, the Carpano seemed to marry better with the Campari and gin).

But when I made a Hanky Panky from the PDT book (gin, sweet vermouth and fernet) it really reminded me of a Martinez and made me wonder of starting to add tiny amounts of Fernet to other sweet vermouth cocktails (Manhattan).

Fernet is not an easy spirit. Drinking it with cola works (Argentinian way almost like the chinotto drink), neat as well as a digestif with a strong doppio espresso but in cocktails it seems to overpower virtually everything.

There is also the menthol aspect of the fernet that would not work with everything.

Anyone has some experience with fernet and have you used it to elevate your average vermouth?

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  1. I think for the reason you stated it would not really work. Too much menthol.

    I've had Fernet in several different cocktails and to me it always takes over the drink.

    How about just using a LOT of angostura bitters with your Manhattan? To me, CA just tastes like other vermouths with a LOT of bitters tossed in. I actually like it on it's own quite a bit, but it is too much in a Manhattan for me.

    1. Fernet works quite well in some cocktails, but just like when you use Pernod or allspice syrup in a tiki drink, you should only use around 1/8 tsp. so you get all the complexity, but don't get overwhelmed.

      1. For me, the flavor of CA that dominates in a cocktail is vanilla so you might try a drop of vanilla extract (and more ango as StriperGuy noted) as a modifier to simple sweet vermouth.

        I love Fernet so we go through many cocktails with larger (1-1.5oz) quantities. But for small quantity modifiers to vermouth I tend to reach for Averna or Ramazzotti.

        5 Replies
        1. re: BillB656

          Thanks for all your feedback. I already go quite heavy on the bitters, but could probably kick it up a notch :-).

          Interested what other fernet cocktails you are all drinking.

          1. re: estilker

            We went to this dinner the other night featuring Fernet in each course. Might give you some ideas.

            FIRST COURSE

            Chamomile seared tuna, aloe-ginger chowchow, Fernet shoyu
            Chris Hardin – Fernet Branca, rhubarb bitters, blood orange liqueur, bitter lemon soda, ginger

            SECOND COURSE
            Beef tataki, curry pumpkin, micro red shiso
            Matt McCullough – Fernet Branca, lemon juice, simple syrup, berry preserves & basil

            THIRD COURSE
            Sauerbraten pork temple ramen
            Kris Korf – Fernet Branca, Irish whiskey, grilled peach, blackberry shrub, lemon juice, bitter lemon soda

            FOURTH COURSE
            Pickled buckboard bacon, green apple wasabi slaw
            Brian Goodwin – Fernet Branca, brandy, apple cider, muddled citrus punch

            FIFTH COURSE
            Cola pot roast, sweet potato puree
            Luke Lambert – Fernet Branca cold drip, “Press Coffee Roasters” coffee, cola syrup

            SIXTH COURSE
            Noble Bread figgy pudding, Fernet caramel
            Richie Moe – Fernet Branca, AZ Bitters Lab Figgy Pudding bitters eggnog with Saffron whipped cream

            1. re: BillB656

              Tat is the most bizarre menue I have every seen. I love Fernet Branca, but why would you ever want a meal with it in every course? Gimicky ick if imho.

              1. re: BillB656

                I'd love to try that. It sounds like the kind of exciting, novel experience that you will always remember. Was this a restaurant, a foodie group, or what?

                As my friend said when I asked him if there was anything he didn't like, "I like everything that tastes good, and the other stuff too."

                --
                www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  Dan, This was at a restaurant called The Gladly. Between them and their sister restaurant, Citizen Public House, (not the one in Boston), they by far go through more Fernet than anyplace else in AZ. They even got a sanctioned Fernet coin delivered for the event.
                  Overall it was incredibly well done. Many more hits than misses, lots of experimenting, and lots of laughs.

          2. That sounds terrible.

            1. I don't think there's any real substitute for CA. I certainly don't think it has much in common with Fernet and its powerful menthol and tobacco notes. I have found that a mix of Sweet vermouth and campari can do a pretty good impression of Punt e Mes, but there is a unique herbal profile to CA that is all its own.

              FWIW, I find the bitter notes to be the real defining flavor quirk of CA, and find the vanilla aspect to be really overplayed. I'm not saying the vanilla isn't there, but I just don't notice it to the degree that many other folks do. I also don't think CA is a particularly great all-around vermouth for cocktails. In some drinks it works wonders (it "makes" a Boulavardier for me), but in many, many drinks calling for sweet vermouth, its strength and unique flavor profile throw the drink off. In many cases, sweet vermouth is sort of a silent ingredient, adding sweetness, ambiguous fruit notes, and balancing out sour and bitter notes, but CA can never really act as a behind-the-scenes "glue" ingredient in a recipe. As has often been mentioned, it really may be best when served over ice, preferably with a thick slice of orange peel.

              1 Reply
              1. re: The Big Crunch

                Totally agree. I generally don't like CA in cocktails (to me it overwhelms most) but love it served chilled a bit, neat.