Last night’s Fernet-Branca event filled the Carlyle bar with curious cocktailians and long-time Fernet drinkers. While only a few industry types went for straight shots, the drinks using Fernet as an ingredient were a big hit.
The first two cocktails on our special menu have been covered here before. The Shift Drink was created in honor of bartenders’ favorite after work shot and combines rye, ginger liqueur, lemon, and Fernet. Next up was the Horatio, using Portland’s own Krogstad aquavit, Cointreau, Fernet, and orange bitters. This drink isn’t for everyone but it was a consistent favorite among last night’s crowd.
The third drink on the menu reads like it could have been created a century ago, but it’s actually a recent invention from Jim Meehan at PDT in New York. Here’s the recipe for the Newark as given by Chuck Taggart at Looka!:
2 ounces Laird’s bonded apple brandy.
1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur.
2 barspoons Fernet-Branca.
Combine with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.
This is a brilliant classic-style cocktail, with the Fernet adding just a touch of bitterness to balance the other ingredients. Since I live under the regime of an archaic state liquor control board I had to settle for Laird’s lower proof applejack. This came out a little sweet in the recipe above so I adjusted the Carpano down to 3/4 ounces.
Our fourth drink took a break from Fernet to feature its minty cousin, Branca Menta. This is a cocktail my good friend Neil Kopplin and I came up with on the fly a few months ago, though most of the credit should really go to Neil. (Neil’s got a blog now, check it out here.) This Portland Stinger will definitely appear on our menu come the winter months:
1 oz Branca Menta
1 oz lemon juice
.75 oz grenadine
.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz cognac
Shake over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
The last cocktail on the menu stirred up a lot of interest on Twitter: A Fernet ice cream float. Yes, really. One of the great things about working with an expert chef is that I can approach him with crazy ideas and he can make them happen. In this case, when I asked him if we could make a Fernet ice cream he already knew of a recipe. Fergus Henderson, inspired by his favorite curative cocktail, includes a “miracle in the form of ice cream” made with Fernet-Branca and crème de menthe in Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omniverous Recipes for the Curious Cook. (This sounds much better than the Fernet and garlic ice cream described in this book, don’t you think?)
Our first batch came out with very strong flavors. I loved it, as did many of the customers who tried it, though others found it a little overwhelming. Our batch for last night’s event was much milder. I have no idea why the two varied so much and I preferred the first, but the second still performed well in our Fernet Float:
1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz Fernet-Branca
3/4 bottle of Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola (chilled)
scoop of Fernet-Branca and crème de menthe ice cream
Combine the first three ingredients in a tall glass and stir. Add the ice cream and serve with a straw and spoon.
We finished the night with another dessert item, this one a straight up sorbet. Fernet-Branca’s high alcohol content makes it a tough ingredient to work with when freezing. Our first batch tasted fantastic but was too alcoholic to solidify. This recipe works much better, but it will eventually separate so it doesn’t have a long shelf-life. What it lacks in convenience it makes up for in deliciousness:
30 oz orange juice
4 oz lemon juice
5 oz Fernet-Branca
1.5 oz ginger juice
14 oz superfine sugar
Whisk or blend everything together, spin in an ice cream maker, and freeze over night. (To make the ginger juice, chop ginger, add a little water, blend, and strain.) The sorbet is tasty and complex, with the Fernet and ginger spicing it up nicely. By cutting the alcohol a bit more I think one could possibly freeze this into popsicles too, which would surely be a hit at any bartenders’ picnic.
Thanks to everyone who came out last night for this event. I had a great time putting it together, and it will hopefully be the first of many evenings putting a favorite spirit in the spotlight.