Fernet Branca

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$ — 39% ABV — Herb

One of the leading brands of Italian fernets, Branca was first made in the late 19th century, possibly (like most bitters) as a stomach medicine. The recipe is a secret of course, but the makers are helpful enough to tell you it's made with such outlandish ingredients as linden (commonly used in cold medicine), chamomile (commonly used in sleepy-time tea) and myrrh (commonly given to the baby Jesus).

Fernets as a subclass of amari are all united in the inclusion of saffron, best known as that thing that makes paella yellow — and delicious! They, and Branca especially, often blur the line between an amaro and an aperitivo. While many are still labeled specifically as an amaro, they're more often used in cocktails in an aperitivo fashion, in small dashes as a modifier. Taken straight, just the smell recalls the feeling of beating the flu.

The drink's namesake doctor Mrs. Maria Branca is most likely an Italian Betty Crocker; i.e. she's fictional, not a blue ribbon baker. Real or not, I grew up with a gorgeous nonna to tell me to take my medicine, and I think she'd agree five o'clock is as good a time as any.

Branca is sold in large bottles that should last a good long while, unless you're Argentinian in which case it might make it 'til Sunday. Buenos Aires loves Fernet Branca, especially in Coca-Cola. Don't argue with them, because you'd be wrong; Fernet and Coke is delicious, spicy and frothy — but is it the very best way to use Branca? It's hard to say, as there's so many places to bring it into play: a Manhattan with Fernet instead of Angostura is called a Fanciulli; an Old Fashioned with Rye and Fernet is a Toronto. Anywhere you might think to add bitters, try Branca and see what happens. You'd be surprised!

Fratelli Branca is located in Milan Italy. Established in 1845 by Bernandino Branca, it has become the head of a conglomerate.