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It was invented in Milan in 1845 by the Italian Maria Scala as a stomach medicine. She became Maria Branca through marriage, and the product's name was born. Since then, the Fratelli Branca distillery produces the drink according to a secret family recipe with 27 herbs from five continents. According to the manufacturer Fernet Branca includes aloe from South Africa, rhubarb from China, gentian from France, galangal from India or Sri Lanka, chamomile from Italy and Argentina, saffron, myrrh and elderflower. It is aged at least one year in oak barrels. The alcohol content is 39 or 40% in Italy and 43% in Austria.
The same manufacturer offers also a sweeter bitter, Brancamenta.
The beverage was the subject of a comedy routine of the same name by Bill Cosby, in which he recalls a misadventure in Italy with fellow I Spy castmember Henry Silva. Tired of Silva ordering for the entire group at restaurants, Cosby decides to order for himself--and ends up with barbecued sparrow. When the aforementioned sparrow doesn't sit well with him, he takes a shot of Fernet Branca, which alleviates the situation (by making him vomit, presumably). It was featured in the movie The Dark Knight Rises.
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