Fernet Branca: Why Does Your Bartender Love It?
A curious reader recently asked me:
Why do all you bartenders love Fernet Branca so much?
You know, that's a really good question. I partake in Fernet Branca on a semi-regular basis. I enjoy it enough that I've written about cocktails with it. But calling Fernet Branca an acquired taste is polite at best.
Fernet Branca is one of a broad category of Italian liqueurs called amaro. Well, all together they'd be amari since that's the plural while amaro is the singular, but I feel like I'm splitting hairs. Amaro is italian for bitter, and that's the common theme of amaro liqueur.
See Also: Your Drink This Weekend: The Eva Perón.
What is amaro? It's an herbal liqueur. The exact blend varies from producer to producer, and they're all fiercely protective of their individual recipes. Judging by the bitterness, gentian root is a pretty sure bet in most of them. Citrus peels often make their way into the mixture, as do ginger and mint. All of these things together make for a tonic that's made to settle the stomach after a heavy meal.
The color of amari range from brown to midnight black. They're all bitter liqueurs, but different brands have different levels of sweetness. Your average amaro like Averna or Ramazzotti strikes a decent balance between bitter and sweet. There are even amaro-style liqueurs from elsewhere in Europe. You've had Jägermeister, right? That's a kräuterlikör, German for "herbal liqueur". It's sweeter than your average amaro, but it's still a descendant of the family.