Drink of the Week: The Fernet Branca Cocktail

The Fernet Branca Cocktail. I think it’s fair to say that probably no one really likes martinis as beginning drinkers. Vodka martinis might go down a bit easier than gin, but to neophytes, martinis taste pretty much like straight booze, and not in a good way. No wonder most of us start with rum and Coke, screwdrivers, the hated (by me…even when I was drinking them) Long Island Ice Teas, and my early favorite, Kamikazes (I’ll probably do that one eventually). Indeed, the only reason I developed my early affection for vodka martinis, which later graduated to gin, was that I really love olives and found green ones tasted extra-delicious after soaking in alcohol for a bit. So, it was sort of refreshing to find that I can still acquire a taste, as this week’s drink did not go down well initially.

I wasn’t alone. Frankly, the Fernet Branca Cocktail doesn’t seem to have many fans. I got it from Harry Craddock’s classic Savoy Cocktail Book, which regular readers will note I’ve been referring to a lot recently. Still, this particular drink is more esoteric than most. Indeed, the only online reference I could find was a 2008 post from Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp blog. Ellestad’s project (still ongoing as far as I can tell) is to make every cocktail in Craddock’s recipe-filled tome. He didn’t seem overly fond of this one. Still, I got to sorta like the drink named for perhaps the ultimate cult liqueur.

The Fernet Branca Cocktail

3/4 ounce Fernet Branca
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (or, maybe, Punt e Mes)
1 1/2 ounce gin

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with tons of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail shaker. Sip slowly, perhaps toasting St. Patrick, who was not only the patron saint of the Irish, but also of second chances.

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Harry Craddock promotes this drink as a hangover cure, and it’s true that Fernet began its life as a stomach medicine. Nevertheless, my initial reaction was that, while it might not be an effective cure for hangovers, it was probably nasty enough it might prevent future ones by discouraging you from drinking at all.

I tried it again. This time, though, I used one of my favorite ingredients, Punt e Mes, a delicious vermouth with more of a bitter edge than most brands. I seemed to like it better now. Was the chocolatey bitterness of the Punt e Mes somehow cancelling out the more acrid/medicinal flavor of the Fernet? Well, then I tried it again with good ol’ sweet Noilly Pratt and I found I liked it better still. I guess I was just getting used to it.

Now, will the Fernet Branca Cocktail ever become a personal go-to drink for me the way a martini is now? I really don’t think so. Still, it is a way to acquaint ourselves with the many odd, and I do mean odd, flavors of Fernet.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Framboise Franca Bomb

The Framboise Franca Bomb. Yes, it’s been an entire week since we saluted International Beer Day. However, as I said last week, for many of you out there every day is some kind of beer day. As it happened, this week’s combo was a little too intriguing — and a little too easy to fix — to completely ignore.

The drink is comprised of two ingredients which are old enough to be considered classic but will nevertheless be new to many of you — they’re still new to me. It’s definitely a case of two fascinating liquids that blend intriguingly together.

For starters, I don’t know where Lindeman’s Framboise has been all my life, but this Belgian export is, for my money, pretty gosh darn delightful stuff. Fermented with raspberries in preference to hops, and tasting very much like raspberries, it’s just sweet enough to be cheerful but just beery enough to be actual, respectable beer. To be honest, though, it should be said that, as beer goes, I’m a pretty rank dilettante. It’s the tragic result of the fact that I don’t seem to be able to put away more than a pint of the stuff in a single evening.

The second, and only other, ingredient in today’s beverage is the world’s trendiest bitters, Fernet Branca. Beloved of Batman’s buddy, Alfred, it actually began its career in the mid-19th century as an Italian stomach medicine. Drunk straight, many will feel it still pretty much tastes like an Italian stomach medicine. I don’t complain because people keep sending me the stuff for free. Also,  when combined with other beverages, it can yield intriguing and even delicious results. Such is the case with today’s DOTW.

Shall we begin?

The Framboise Franca Bomb

12 ounces Lindeman’s Framboise (or another Framboise Lambic beer if your feeling experimental, and can find one)
1 ounce (or a bit more) Fernet Branca

Fill a pint glass with your Framboise Lambic beer. Drop a shot glass of Fernet Branca shot into glass. Start drinking and toast all that time you’ve saved by making this cocktail instead of something that requires you to squeeze lemons and what not.

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This drink isn’t only easier and quicker to make than most of the cocktails I select for DOTW — and I’m already pretty darn intent on keeping these drinks easy enough for louts like myself to make — it’s quicker to write about. I suppose I could have experimented with other Framboise Lambic beers, assuming I could have even found any, but I really didn’t see any reason to mess with near perfection.

While this isn’t as spectacular a blending of bitter and sweet as say, an Americano or, better yet, an Ugly Americano, the perfumey, fruity bitterness of the nearly 80 proof Fernet blends beautifully with the raspberry sweet tarty beery of the Lindemans Framboise. Also, the more of the berry flavored beer you drink, the more you’re ready for the stronger Fernet Branca flavor.

All that, and it yields a far better buzz attitude adjustment than a mere pint of beer. All in all, a great reason to keep the Bud and the Heineken packed away and go for something a bit more exotic, I’d say.  With more drinks like this, I think I could add to my beer consumption just a bit.

  

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