Fernet (Italian pronunciation: [ferˈnɛt]) is an Italian type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit. Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which vary according to the brand, but usually include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits.
Fernet is usually served as a digestif after a meal but may also be served with coffee and espresso or mixed into coffee and espresso drinks. It typically contains 45% alcohol by volume. It may be served at room temperature or with ice.
Fernet is very popular in Argentina, where it was introduced by Italians during the Great European immigration wave to the country. It is particularly associated with Córdoba Province, which has been called "the world fernet capital"; almost 3 million litres are consumed there annually, representing just under 30 percent of national consumption. National production is around 25 million liters, 35% sold in Buenos Aires Province and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Fernet-Branca is by far the most popular brand in the country, leading the market and reaching a "mythical" status. Other popular brands include 1882, Capri, Ramazzotti and Vittone. Fernet is commonly mixed with Coca-Cola. The massively popular drink (Fernet-Cola) was popularized during the mid-1980s encouraged by advertisements of Fratelli Branca in Buenos Aires TV stations with national scope, its popularity growing steadily ever since. In fact, fernet has had the highest growth in consumption in the last 10 years. The popularity of fernet is so strong, that many bars in Buenos Aires have removed it from their menus to encourage consumption of more expensive drinks.
In San Francisco
The drink has been popular in the San Francisco Bay Area since before Prohibition. In 2008, San Francisco accounted for 25% of US consumption. San Francisco bars usually serve fernet as a shot followed by a ginger ale chaser.
Fernet can be mixed into cocktails, though the strong taste can overwhelm other ingredients. It can replace bitters in recipes; for instance, the Fanciulli cocktail is a Manhattan with fernet instead of Angostura bitters.
The chef Fergus Henderson offers a recipe, entitled both "A Miracle" and "Dr. Henderson" that approximates Branca Menta by combining two parts fernet with one part crème de menthe over ice. The recipe describes this cocktail as a cure for overindulgence.
In popular culture
In Scandal (TV series) Season 6 Episode 6 "96. Extinction (2017)," the character Eli Pope while reminiscing about the past with Sandra prepares her "a drink," a very tall pour, and plays a Marvin Gaye record. A bottle of Fernet is visible on the table during the whole scene and its label can be read clearly as the camera zooms in to cuts away.
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- "Silence while he stared at a shelf that held the humbler poisons of France—bottles of Otard, Rhum St. James, Marie Brizzard, Punch Orangeade, Andre Fernet Blanco, Cherry Rochet, and Armagnac."
- "Hobie had an iron constitution; whenever he came down with anything himself, he drank a Fernet-Branca and kept going."
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