The Bartender’s Handshake: Fernet Branca

Branca minis – Menta & Fernet


While I was at Boston Cocktail Summit, I attended Francesco Lafranconi’s “Do You Speak Amari.” Amari is the plura of amaro, Italian liqueurs that are generally bitter and used as digestives. In the last few years, bartenders have been using amari in cocktails and I’m not talking about Fernet Branca and coca-cola.

We tasted about 15 amari ending with Fernet-Branca. Francesco casually mentioned Fratelli Branca, the company that produces the bitter minty liqueur, was not the first to make fernet which is a type of amari but they were the ones that popularized it. So much so that most people when they say fernet mean Fernet-Branca.

Fernet-Branca, even animals love it


Fernet Last Word – “Fernetaboutit”


Like any good enthusiast, I developed a taste for Fernet-Branca and I particularly like it in cocktails. Memorable ones I’ve had include a Fernet Julep I had Art Beyond the Glass earlier this year. But I tend to go back to Hanky Pankys or I might as for a Fernet Last Word. This cocktail or “Fernetaboutit” is 15 Romolo’s variation on a Last Word. Traditionally made with gin, you replace it with Fernet-Branca. I’ve had it with other fernets and it’s not the same. Also, note although I do like other maraschinos, this cocktail is best with Luxardo Maraschino. Interesting enough, Francesco  had mentioned it was the Luxardo company that first developed fernet but I need to research this more as I can’t find further information on this. I may have to go to Italy.

  • .75 oz Fernet-Branca
  • .75 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • .75 Green Chartreuse
  • .75 lime juice

Fill a cocktail shaker with all ingredients, shake approximately half a minute like a madman than strain and serve up.

Fernet-Branca bikes

ooh, Minty Fernet-Branca bikes!


Lately I have discovered that the West Coast makes a mean Hanky Panky. We like our Fernet-Branca and it shows up beautifully in this cocktail. While in Boston, I had a Hanky Panky that I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. The recipe traditionally calls for a barspoon of Fernet-Branca and this bar was apparently a stickler to the recipe. It jogged my memory of the time Eric Alperin, owner of the Best American Cocktail Bar, the Varnish once asked me- how did I make make my Hanky Panky. I had confusedly answered wasn’t it gin and fernet? And he clarified if I did a barspoon or was it equal parts? And considering how perfect his was, I decided my version would be just like his- a lot of fernet!

Hanky Panky


  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .75 Fernet Branca

Stir rapidly until shaker (or mixing glass) is icy cold and you can’t stand to touch it anymore. Strain and serve with an orange peel (though I used lemon in the picture as I didn’t have a handy orange around).

I’m going to tell you right now that the recipe usually calls for 2 dashes of fernet (or about .25 oz/ a barspoon). Every time I’ve had it this way, I want more. So, I upped it to .75 oz but I bet it’d be okay with 1 oz. Think of it as a Fernet Negroni (equal parts).

What is this? Americano Fernet Menta?


One day, I was shopping and spotted Americano Fernet Menta. First I decried the imposter but really, as we know by now, this must be a type of Fernet. I actually wouldn’t call it a variation of Branca Menta since wouldn’t they just drop the fernet from the label? Or were they talking about how minty fernet is? And it is.

Branca Menta


I was sent Branca Menta and Fernet-Branca since I sadly couldn’t attend the Fernet-Branca breakfast at Tales of the Cocktail.  I remember the first time I had seen Branca Menta was at the Vesper at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Bartender George was going to make me his Hanky Panky variation and accidentally grabbed Menta instead of Fernet-Branca. He didn’t actually use Menta but I kept an eye out for future cocktails made with Menta. I’ll be doing some cocktail R&D soon.

Fernet-Branca flashlight


My favorite swag from Boston Cocktail Summit. A Fernet-Branca logo flashlight! I’m using it like a bat signal at bars.

In the meantime, I really hope I get a California Fernet-Branca challenge coin soon. Do they even have them in LA?


Fratelli Branca

© The Minty // LA Cocktails  2012



13 thoughts on “The Bartender’s Handshake: Fernet Branca

  1. Thanks for including the Fernetaboutit… we do love that drink…

    For menta cocktails, we make a MEAN Stinger (we call it the San Francisco Stinger) and use Germain Robin Craft Method Brandy and Branca Menta, stirred and up… it is delicious.


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