The Story of Fernet-Branca

Fratelli Branca Distillerie claim that the recipe has remained unchanged since its invention in 1845. According to the company, Fernet was created by the "self-taught apothecary" Bernardino Branca. The name "Fernet" belonged to a Doctor Fernet, a fictional Swede with whom Branca originally shared the credit for Fernet, presumably to add authority to claims of the drink's health benefits. The logo, featuring an eagle poised over a globe, was designed in 1893 by Leopoldo Metlicovitz.

A household name in Italy and a cult hit abroad, Fernet-Branca is one of Italy's more unusual drinks. Its thick, bitter flavour makes it something of an acquired taste, but those who do like it often love it.

Health benefits

With all these medicinal ingredients, it is not surprising that Fernet-Branca was first developed as a health elixir. The creator of the formula, Bernardino Branca, was a self-taught apothecary in Milan, who first offered Fernet-Branca to the public in 1845.

There were many, many health benefits claimed for Fernet-Branca. A newspaper advertisement from 1865 claimed this "renowned liqueur" to be "febrifuge, vermifuge, tonic, invigorating, warming and anti-choleric", a drink which had furthermore helped the venerable Doctor Fernet (and several members of his family) to live for over a hundred years. It was also marketed as a cure for menstrual cramps. The drink's numerous medicinal claims came in handy during the American prohibition; as a medicine, Fernet-Branca was still legal.

Today, many people claim that Fernet is an excellent digestive aid and hangover cure ... even some believe that it can cure cholera and ease menstrual cramp pains.

Fernet abroad

Although Fernet-Branca is made in Italy, Italy is not the largest consumer of this liqueur. In fact, there are two other places in the world known for their prodigious consumption of the bitter quaff. These two places are San Francisco (California), and Argentina.

San Francisco is the biggest consumer of Fernet-Branca in the United States, and has the highest per capita consumption of it in the world. Its popularity in the city may be partially attributed to San Francisco's large Italian-American community, centered around the commercial district of North Beach. Whatever the reason, San Franciscans drink Fernet-Branca in large quantities, usually followed by a chaser of ginger ale.

Argentina also has a large Italian population and a similar thirst for Fernet-Branca. There is even a popular song that celebrates the joys of "Fernet Con Cola", or Fernet mixed with cola, the usual way it is prepared in Argentina.


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