What is Fernet Branca? The History and Uses of the Liqueur

Everything to know about this bitter Italian liqueur

Fernet-Branca is a type of amaro, a bitter herbal liqueur that originated in Italy.

It is made from a blend of over 27 herbs and spices, including chamomile, saffron, and myrrh, and has a distinctively bitter taste. Fernet-Branca is often consumed as a digestif or mixed with soda water as a refreshing aperitif.

While Fernet-Branca is not as well-known as some other spirits, it has a loyal following among bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts.

Its popularity is due in part to its versatility – it can be used in a variety of cocktails and mixed drinks – as well as its unique flavor profile. Fernet-Branca is also known for its alleged health benefits, including aiding digestion and preventing hangovers.

Despite its popularity among bartenders, Fernet-Branca is an acquired taste and may not be for everyone. However, those who appreciate its complex flavor and bitter notes often become devoted fans.

Whether sipped neat or mixed into a cocktail, Fernet-Branca is a distinctive and intriguing spirit that continues to captivate drinkers around the world.

What is Fernet Branca

Fernet Branca is a type of amaro, a bitter herbal liqueur that originated in Italy.

The recipe for Fernet Branca is a closely guarded secret, but it is known to contain over 27 different herbs and spices, including myrrh, saffron, chamomile, and aloe.

Fernet Branca has a unique and complex flavor profile that is both bitter and sweet. It is often described as having a medicinal taste, with notes of menthol, anise, and citrus.

Fernet Branca is also known for its high alcohol content, which ranges from 39% to 45% ABV.

Despite its strong flavor and high alcohol content, Fernet Branca has become a popular ingredient in cocktails, particularly among bartenders.

It is often used as a digestif, or an after-dinner drink, to aid in digestion. Fernet Branca is also said to have medicinal properties, and it has been used as a remedy for everything from indigestion to cholera.

In addition to its use in cocktails and as a digestive aid, Fernet Branca is also commonly consumed as a shot or on the rocks. It has a cult following in Argentina, where it is often mixed with cola to create a popular drink known as a “Fernet con Coca.”

History of Fernet Branca

Fernet-Branca is a type of amaro, which is an Italian herbal liqueur that was invented in Milan, Italy by Bernardino Branca in 1845.

Branca was a self-taught herbalist who, along with his sons, set up a business to manufacture and sell the liqueur.

Initially, Fernet-Branca was marketed as a pick-me-up and a cure for worms, fever, cholera, and menstrual pain.

During a particularly bad 19th-century outbreak of cholera in Milan, Branca began providing his recipe to the Fatebenefratelli hospital. The hospital used the liqueur as a treatment for the disease.

Over time, Fernet-Branca became popular among bartenders and drinks-industry workers. It is now the best-known brand of the fernet category of amari and is often called the “bartender’s handshake.”

How is Fernet Branca Made

Fernet-Branca is produced according to the original recipe, which is a trade secret.

It is made from 27 herbs and other ingredients, including Chinese rhubarb, aloe ferox (bitter aloe), cinchona, chocolate, quinine, and angelica. The exact proportions of each ingredient are kept secret.

The production process for Fernet-Branca is a journey of knowledge through places, scents, and flavors.

First, the herbs, spices, and roots are processed into alcoholic infusions, extracts, or essences. Then, these components are blended together in a specific order to create the final product.

The entire process takes over a year from start to finish. The ingredients are carefully selected and sourced from all over the world to ensure the highest quality. The production facility is located in Milan, Italy, where it has been produced since 1845.

The Fratelli Branca distillery takes great pride in the production of Fernet-Branca. It is made with the utmost care and attention to detail, ensuring that each bottle is of the highest quality. Fernet-Branca is a unique and complex spirit that has been enjoyed by people all over the world for over 150 years.

How to Drink Fernet Branca

Neat or On The Rocks

Fernet Branca is typically consumed as an after-dinner digestif, served neat or on the rocks.

It is recommended to serve Fernet Branca chilled, as it enhances the flavors and aromas of the liqueur. Traditionally, it is served in a cordial glass, which is a small glass that holds 2-3 ounces of liquid.


For those who prefer a sweeter taste, Fernet Branca can be mixed with cola, ginger ale, or lemon-lime soda.

It can also be used as a substitute for bitters in classic cocktails such as the Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

Cocktail Recipes

Fernet Branca is a versatile liqueur that can be used in a variety of cocktails.

Here are some popular recipes:

  • Toronto: 2 oz rye whiskey, 1/4 oz Fernet Branca, 1/4 oz simple syrup, 1 dash Angostura bitters. Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
  • Fernet Sour: 2 oz Fernet Branca, 3/4 oz lime juice, 1/2 oz simple syrup, 1 egg white. Dry shake all ingredients, then shake with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.
  • Hanky Panky: 1 1/2 oz gin, 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth, 1/4 oz Fernet Branca. Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

It is important to note that Fernet Branca has a strong, bitter flavor that may not be for everyone. It is recommended to start with small amounts when mixing it in cocktails and adjust to taste.

Fernet Branca vs. Other Amari

Fernet Branca is one of the most well-known and beloved amari, but how does it compare to other bittersweet Italian liqueurs?

Here are some key differences:

  • Taste: Fernet Branca is known for its intense, bitter flavor with notes of mint and eucalyptus. Other amari, like Averna and Cynar, have a sweeter, more herbal taste.
  • ABV: Fernet Branca has a high alcohol content, typically around 40-45%. Other amari can have a lower ABV, around 20-30%.
  • Ingredients: Fernet Branca is made with over 40 different herbs and spices, including saffron, myrrh, and chamomile. Other amari have their own unique combinations of ingredients, such as Averna’s blend of orange, licorice, and vanilla.
  • Uses: Fernet Branca is often used as a digestif, enjoyed neat or on the rocks after a meal. It can also be used in cocktails, such as the popular Toronto or Hanky Panky. Other amari, like Campari and Aperol, are more commonly used in cocktails.

While Fernet Branca may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it has certainly earned its place as a staple in the world of amari. Its unique flavor and versatility make it a favorite among bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts alike.


After exploring the history, production, and uses of Fernet-Branca, it is clear that this bitter herbal liqueur has a rich and fascinating story. With its origins in Milan in the mid-1800s, Fernet-Branca has become a beloved and iconic brand in the world of amari. Its unique blend of herbs and spices, including saffron, myrrh, and chamomile, give it a distinctive flavor profile that is both bitter and refreshing.

While Fernet-Branca is often enjoyed as a digestif or aperitif, it has also found a place in the world of cocktails. Its bold flavor can add depth and complexity to classic drinks like the Manhattan and the Negroni, and it can also be used as a standalone ingredient in creative new cocktails.

Overall, Fernet-Branca is a versatile and complex spirit that is worth exploring for anyone who appreciates the art of mixology. Whether sipped neat or used as a cocktail ingredient, it offers a unique and unforgettable taste experience that is sure to leave an impression.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

two glasses of pastis with anise spices

A Guide to Pastis: History, Brands, and Uses

two rich elite women stepping off a helicopter and being served chamapagne

Is This the World’s Most Expensive Champagne? $100k Bottle Unveiled