A.K.A. Italian Napalm – ” I love the smell of napalm in the morning”
Notes: Probably the most well known brand of the Italian bitters. A bit of explanation here: a fernet is a type of Italian bitters (amaro), Branca is the brand. Originally created in 1845 by Bernardino Branca.
Sometimes referred to disparately as “Italian Napalm” (actually more fitting moniker would be Italian mustard gas in my opinion, but a lot of people outside of Ethiopians aren’t familiar with it) and a host of other less than enthusiastic opinions and comments, it is quite popular in some quarters. A blend of 27 spices, a grape alcohol base and aged for 12 months in Slovenian oak barrels to mellow and blend.
Appearance: Opaque black in the bottle, rich dark brown caramel in the glass. On swirling, leaves a coating on the glass with occasional legs developing.
First Impression: Aromatic, bitter, earthy, with orange, saffron and other lighter scents like myrrh in the background. Gentian, cinnamon and galangal seem to be predominant with mint in the background?,
Taste: Bitter, dust dry, like eating myrrh tears, gentian, mace, galangal, you can taste them all after the initial dry, bitter rush as they slowly march across your palate in a acrid procession. Fleeting notes of caramel, sugar and mincemeat also.
Drinks: An interesting spirit to work with, a lot going on with it and many facets to be amplified.
Bottle: Dark green glass bottle with a black screw top closure Nicely done antique style label has not changed and gives it a classic, timeless look.
Other: They make a few other bitters, including a mint version (not easy to find in U.S.).
Final Thoughts: An interesting bitter and an excellent addition to any cocktailian’s bar cabinet.
Addendum Post Tales of The Cocktail: Fernet Branca kindly provided a number of people with 2 packs of 50 Ml bottles each morning attached to their hotel door handles. After staying up till 6 or 7 AM every morning a lot of us came to love Fernet Branca and it’s restorative effects. As one famous bartender said as we gratefully split a bottle “You saved my life” indeed, Tales and life itself would have been, if not impossible, a lot more grim without it. Tested under extreme conditions by professionals it came though and so did we.