I knew I would write about Fernet and Coke one of these days. The trouble was finding a good story to tell...I wouldn't regale the tale of the time I had one Fernet too many, or the boisterous Fernet-downing rugby team we met at a party..and then as I was shooting photos of these icy glasses of Fernet and Coke, Guillermo got home from work.
"What? You're drinking Coke? " he said, seeing the bottle on our coffee table. (We're one of those weird households that almost never drinks soda.) "Where's the Fernet!?" He said, without seeing what I was doing. Then he rounded the corner to the kitchen, saw the Fernet and Coke, and we both burst out laughing. His was a sheepish 'oh, duh' snort, and he was surprised--like Coke, Fernet isn't something we have often. He happily helped me 'disassemble' the photo shoot.
Fernet Branca (or just Fernet to his friends) is an Italian liqueur, with a top-secret recipe that hasn't changed since its creation in 1845. Fratelli Branca Distillerie, who producesFernet, say it includes 27 different herbs and spices taken from four continents, including South African aloe, gentian root, chamomile, iris, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, galanga, cinnamon, zedoary, and yellow Iranian saffron.
The dark syrupy liqueur has bitter, herbal flavor that's almost medicinal. In fact, it was created and marketed as a health tonic (thereby allowing it to bypass Prohibition laws in the US) by an Italian "self-taught apothecary" named Bernardino Branca. The name "Fernet" belonged to a 'Doctor Fernet', a fictional Swede with whom Branca shared the invention of the drink's to add authority to claims of Fernet's health benefits. While today it is used as a digestive or as a hangover cure, the tonic was formerly billed as curing everything from colic to cholera to menstrual cramps.
While some here would say it's...an acquired taste, in Argentina it's the national cocktail--inhabitants of the province of Cordoba consume more than 6.5 million bottles of it a year! Fernet's own webpage is an amazing journey through the drink's history to cocktail and food recipes. It has a song written about it (Fernet con Coca, by Vilma Palma), it's the favorite drink of Masters Golf Tournament winner Angel Cabrera, and it even has its own facebook fan page with 256,603--wait, make that 256,604--fans. It can be drunk with ginger ale, coffee, and of course, Coke. (Recipe follows)
Fernet con Coca
Fernet with Coke
2 oz. Fernet Branca
8-10 oz. Coke
Start by pouring the Fernet in over the ice--a tall frosted glass is preferred for serving. Slowly add the Coke, sip, add more Coke and sip, until the right flavor combination has been reached. Enjoy responsibly.