Fernet Branca

Love it or hate it Fernet Branca is THE go-to shot here at Society Lounge. Selling more Fernet than any other bar in the state is not a feat we take lightly. It does help that over 90 percent of “shifties” (a complimentary drink for each staff member after work) are Fernet Branca, and with good reason.

Forty herbs and botanicals make up this dry, herbaceous, and bitter digestif. Some of these are chosen for flavor while others (herbs, plants and roots) are chosen for their ability to aid in digestion. The base spirit for Fernet Branca is grape, which makes sense considering that Fernet Branca was born in Italy where grapes are the primo choice for fermentation. While the Ol’ Fernie Branca recipe itself is a closely guarded secret, some of the commonly known ingredients are aloe, cardamom, chamomile, gentian, myrrh and saffron. Saffron, derived from the crocus flower and native to regions of Greece and Southwest Asia, has long held its place among some of the world’s most costly spices by weight, at times equivalent even to the cost of gold. Fernet Branca is said to be the world’s largest purchaser of saffron, buying up roughly 75 percent of the world’s supply. Perhaps the world’s love for Fernet Branca deserves partial blame for the ever-rising price of saffron.

Before the craft cocktail movement swept Fernet Branca into the hearts of so many across the country, it was most popular in both San Francisco and Argentina. Both owe their alliance with Fernie to their Italian transplants. In San Francisco a shot of Fernet is the bartender’s handshake, alluding to a knowledge of craft beverages made with flavor and care. In Argentina one of the most popular beverages is “Fernet Con Cola” (fernet and coke). There are customers at Society Lounge who are so familiar with Fernet Branca that they often make specific requests as to how it’s made. For example, Fernet layered at the bottom of a Mexican Coke.

Fernet con cola is a more then respectable way to drink Fernet, but if you’re looking for something a little more playful try a Hanky Panky or, as it’s best known at Society, a Fernet Fizz. The Hanky Panky is a slight twist on the Martinez (grandfather to the martini and manhattan) and dates back to 1925 and the infamous Savoy Hotel in London. The drink was created by the Savoy’s first female head bartender, Ada Coleman. The very first customer to take a sip responded by saying “By jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” And thus, the Hanky Panky was born. Society’s own creation, the Fernet Fizz, started with Fernet Con Cola and the idea to combine its best elements with a twist. Using our beloved root beer syrup recipe with a bit of soda water, balancing out the sweetness with lemon juice, and then adding a whole egg for a nice froth and some malty after tones. Voilà, there you have it! The Fernet Fizz. But if you truly want to drink Fernet like the pros do then grab a shot, grab a friend and cheers to good health and good life.

Hanky Panky

  • 1.5 oz London Dry Gin
  • 1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Bitters
  • Stir, strain and garnish with an orange peel


Fernet Fizz

  • 1.5 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1.5 oz Root Beer Syrup
  • .75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 whole egg

Shake without ice for 10 long seconds, add ice and shake for 20 long seconds, strain over an ounce of cold soda water and garnish with a lemon twist