Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fernet & Coke

A brief, uplifting note about an Argentine tradition that I've come to enjoy over these past few months: Fernet con Coca Cola.

Fernet Branca is an herbacious digestif made in Italy by Distillerie Fratelli Branca. However, Argentina is the only other place in the world that they make it outside of Italy.  Fernet became popular in Argentina with the Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century (as in 1900) and then just spread like wildfire throughout the country. On its own, it is disgusting. It's bitter, it's really hard to describe the taste, and the recipe is a secret.  Its Wikipedia entry describes it as "myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits, and coloured with caramel colouring. Ingredients rumored to be in fernet include codeine, mushrooms, fermented beets, coca leaf, gentian, rhubarb, wormwood, zedoary, cinchona, bay leaves, absinthe, orange peel, calumba, echinacea, quinine, ginseng, St. John's wort, sage, and peppermint oil."

Fernet is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, I hated it. I asked my friends how they could possible drink something so terrible. They assured me that I'd come to like it. I was a nonbeliever.

There are a couple ways to order Fernet in a bar here. You can either get it normally (fernet con coke), or you can get it "para preparar", when the bar gives you 1 glass with ice and fernet, another glass with just ice, and a bottle of Coke to mix your own according to how you like it.  This is probably the best way to go and the best value - and you can make it more suave at first (mostly Coke) and then move on to higher potency combinations later in the evening.

Then one day I enjoyed it. It was after a few adult beverages, of course. But for some reason, I began to like it. And now I know I'm going to crave it when I get back to Texas. Hmph.

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