Ritonare a Italia – for Fernet

Week 21 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously! Fernet.

Yes, we’re back to Italy this week for a unique and, frankly, weird spirit – fernet. I’ve never in my travels had the opportunity to sample this digestif and Jeff’s book didn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm for the first time drinker of fernet. Here’s how he describes the flavor:


“Imagine stuffing a handful of Good ’n’ Plenty candies in your mouth. And then chase those with a spoonful of Robitussin and a shot of Scope. That’s about as close a description as one could muster…”  Sounds great, right?

When I tried it on its own, I swear I couldn’t have described it any better!  It has notes of licorice, maybe black cherry, and a little spicy mint finish. Bizarre. And yet…. You guessed it, I kinda liked it! I’m beginning to think I’ll drink just about anything.

Fernet is made from a variety of herbs and spices which differ depending on the brand. It is classified as an amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit.  Most fernets include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe and saffron, with a base of distilled grapes.

The origins of fernet are in Italy but it has become popular in Argentina. The Argentines drink fernet mixed with coke to form a simple cocktail. I am a Pepsi girl, however, so I mixed my shot of fernet in a tall glass with about 8 oz of Pepsi (ok, diet, caffeine-free Pepsi, no judging!) which made for a pretty pleasant drink. IMG_3699

Fernet has also undergone a “cult-like renaissance” among foodies and folks in the bar and restaurant business. Especially in the San Fransisco Bay area where there is a strong connection to Italian food, even serving up offerings rarely found outside Italy itself.

San Fransisco is definitely one of my favorite places in the US to visit. Food, craft beer, culture, history, beautiful scenery and some of the friendliest people in the nation. Seriously, they are a mellow bunch.

I was worried that fernet wouldn’t be available locally but apparently the “cult-like renaissance” has made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia. At the liquor store where I’ve been acquiring all the out-of-the-mainstream boozes, one of the bemused employees finally asked what I was up to. And after informing them about the Year of Drinking Adventurously, they are now excited to see me coming, eagerly waiting to hear of the latest libation. I’ve become interesting, instead of weird.  Go figure!

I hope if you have the chance, you’ll give fernet a try. You might like it as much as I. I wonder if Lula fancied fernet?