July 7, 2009

Argentinean Mixology: Fernet and Coke


I knew I would write about Fernet and Coke one of these days.  The trouble was finding a good story to tell…I wouldn't regale the tale of the time I had one Fernet too many, or the boisterous Fernet-downing rugby team we met at a party..and then as I was shooting photos of these icy glasses of Fernet and Coke, Guillermo got home from work. 

"What?  You're drinking Coke? " he said, seeing the bottle on our coffee table.  (We're one of those weird households that almost never drinks soda.) "Where's the Fernet!?"  He said, without seeing what I was doing.  Then he rounded the corner to the kitchen, saw the Fernet and Coke, and we both burst out laughing.  His was a sheepish 'oh, duh' snort, and he was surprised–like Coke, Fernet isn't something we have often.  He happily helped me 'disassemble' the photo shoot. 

Fernet Branca (or just Fernet to his friends) is an Italian liqueur, with a top-secret recipe that hasn't changed since its creation in 1845.  Fratelli Branca Distillerie, who producesFernet, say it includes 27 different herbs and spices taken from four continents, including South African aloe, gentian root, chamomile, iris, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, galanga, cinnamon, zedoary, and yellow Iranian saffron. 

The dark syrupy liqueur has bitter, herbal flavor that's almost medicinal.  In fact, it was created and marketed as a health tonic (thereby allowing it to bypass Prohibition laws in the US) by an Italian "self-taught apothecary" named Bernardino Branca. The name "Fernet" belonged to a 'Doctor Fernet', a fictional Swede with whom Branca shared the invention of the drink's to add authority to claims of Fernet's health benefits.  While today it is used as a digestive or as a hangover cure, the tonic was formerly billed as curing everything from colic to cholera to menstrual cramps.

While some here would say it's…an acquired taste, in Argentina it's the national cocktail–inhabitants of the province of Cordoba consume more than 6.5 million bottles of it a year!  Fernet's own webpage is an amazing journey through the drink's history to cocktail and food recipes.  It has a song written about it (Fernet con Coca, by Vilma Palma), it's the favorite drink of Masters Golf Tournament winner Angel Cabrera, and it even has its own facebook fan page with 256,603–wait, make that 256,604–fans.  It can be drunk with ginger ale, coffee, and of course, Coke. (Recipe follows)


Fernet con Coca

Fernet with Coke

2 oz. Fernet Branca

8-10 oz. Coke


Start by pouring the Fernet in over the ice–a tall frosted glass is preferred for serving.  Slowly add the Coke, sip, add more Coke and sip, until the right flavor combination has been reached.  Enjoy responsibly.


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12 Responses to “Argentinean Mixology: Fernet and Coke”

  1. Oh, I have never tried Fernet & Coke, I usually have it with coffee…. will give it a try, thanks a lot for your info.

  2. The first time I tried Fernet con Coca, it tasted like mouthwash to me. However, after giving it several goes, I love it. Definitely an acquired taste.

  3. rico, espumante y alegre,,, un saludo desde Bowen Mendoza. R. Argentina Florencia.

  4. very nice article Rebe!

  5. We often drink Fernet and soda–good as an aperitif or after dinner (when you’ve overeaten!).
    And long ago I made some Fernet fondant and dipped them in chocolate. I’ll have to try that again–a digestive candy…

  6. Very cool. Never tasted this before.

  7. I must try this one, i didn’t know Fernet Branca was so popular abroad!

  8. Even if I don’t like the mix myself, I loved reading this entry about Fernet & Coke, for it’s in a way, a symbol of present-day Córdoba, I think, and I am very far away! I might even give it another try, just to have something that reminds me of my city.

  9. Boy are you coming to the right town. Did you know more than 50% of the Fernet consumed in the US is drank right here in San Francisco? It’s the local chefs’ drink, and therefore has taken on a certain cachet over the years. Several of the better cocktail establishments hereabouts make concoctions with it.

  10. I am just back from Argentina and I loved the Fernet-Coke (and all the other things we ate and drunk, i.e. the fantastic wine).
    Thank you so much for writing this blog, it’s amazing.

  11. there’s also a diferent drink with mint fernet and fanta, also delicious!

  12. I see someone else from San Francisco beat me to the post (not surprising, since this has been up for more than a year). I’m a tour guide in the City and I love trying to get tourists and my friends from out of town to try Fernet. Maybe I will have better luck with the help of Coca-Cola!

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