Fernet Branca: Why Does Your Bartender Love It?
Then, we get to fernet. Fernet isn't the brand name; it's the category. Fernet is less sweet and sharply more bitter than your average amaro. For this reason, it's a hard sell, especially to Americans. Your inevitable initial dislike of fernet is hard-wired into your brain. Out in the wild, sweet tends to be safe, and bitter tends to be poisonous. You can thank your hunter-gatherer ancestors from millennia ago for your dislike of Fernet. The good news is once you've had it a few times, your brain realizes it's something that won't kill you, and you start to enjoy it.
But why do bartenders love the stuff so much? I think we can blame San Francisco. Fernet Branca has been popular there for over a century. In the last few years, San Francisco has become a hotbed of mixology, so it's only natural that the habit of a San Franciscan bartender swigging a shot of Fernet at the end of a long shift would spread across the country.
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The complexity of Fernet Branca and other fernet liqueurs is quite enjoyable once you're past that initial hump. But what is there to do with it while you're still getting used to the firepower of drinking it straight? A generous splash of soda helps. Or, you can pair it with some of the included ingredients. In San Francisco, it's served with a ginger ale chaser. So much the better to settle the stomach. Down in Argentina, it's very popular to mix Fernet Branca with Coca-Cola. You can also give it some more mint by mixing two parts of Fernet Branca to one part crème de menthe.