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The Case for Drinking Italian Favorite Fernet-Branca

The flavor of this herbaceous liqueur has been beguiling drinkers for nearly two centuries.

While many people love Fernet-Branca, you could say that the historic Italian liqueur is in Edoardo Branca’s blood.

Yes, there is actually a real Italian family behind the complex Italian spirit and Edoardo is the sixth generation of the Brancas to work on their eponymous spirit.

He joined the business a few years ago after a successful career in Italy's financial sector. It was time for Edoardo to help represent the brand that his ancestor Bernardino Branca dreamed up in 1845 as a cure-all to treat cholera and spleen pain, among other conditions. For decades, it was even sold in American pharmacies.

A taste of this herbaceous, bitter liqueur will evoke its medicinal past. Fortunately, you no longer need a prescription to get a bottle of Fernet-Branca. In fact, the liqueur, which, according to Edoardo, is still used in Italy to aid digestion after meals, can now be found in a range of cocktails at top bars around the U.S. And from New York to San Francisco, it’s a favorite of the current generation of craft cocktail bartenders.

While bartenders pour each other small glasses of Fernet-Branca neat, they have also dug back into history for bartending inspiration. What they have found is a number of cocktails calling for Fernet-Branca that were created by some of the greatest bartenders of all time. The turn-of-the-century Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca), which was invented by the world’s first renowned female bartender, Ada Coleman, is one of the most famous of these tipples and has been given new life by the current cocktail revival.

Fernet-Branca’s enduring popularity is understandable, given that after one sip you’ll be enchanted by the spirit’s notes of anise, orange peel and mint, to name just a few. The flavor might remind you of anything from a strong cup of espresso to an herbal remedy. Edoardo suggests tasting it the first time in three sips. The first is a challenge, the second an intrigue and the third is all pleasure. Notes of colombo, aloe and gentian give the first sip its heat and bitterness. But with those flavors still on your tongue, the second sip, gives way to the zedoary and chamomile, which lend the drink a spicy air of licorice. The third sip, fulfillment, is bitter again, with the myrrh coming to the forefront.

While you can now find Fernet-Branca around the world (it’s available in more than 160 countries, including Argentina, where it’s a sensation), the liqueur’s 27 ingredients are equally cosmopolitan, coming as they do from four continents. Its formula has been passed down from one generation of Brancas to the next. The herbs and other ingredients are infused for a month into the base spirit, which is then blended, filtered and aged in giant Slovenian oak barrels for at least a year.

Even though the world has become increasingly high tech, the production methods involved in making Fernet-Branca have remained essentially unchanged. The brand’s commitment to authenticity and consistency has helped endear Fernet-Branca to its fans around the world for the last 170 years.

So, would Bernardino Branca object to how the spirit is now consumed in a variety of ways? Edoardo doesn’t think so, since the company’s motto is, after all, “Innovate but keep [your roots].” So, pour yourself a glass of Fernet-Branca or use it in a cocktail. Salute!

This content was produced on behalf of Fernet-Branca by the The Daily Beast brand strategy team and not by the The Daily Beast editorial staff.