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Last week we devoted some time and space to Fernet as part of the first annual Fernet Week. As Contributing Editor Matt Rodbard asks in his kickoff essay: Why a week devoted to Fernet? Here's why...

Last week we devoted some time and space to Fernet as part of the first annual Fernet Week. As Contributing Editor Matt Rodbard asks in his kickoff essay: Why a week devoted to Fernet? Take one shot and you might know why. Drinking Fernet is like sucking on a balloon filled with nitrous oxide. The concept, initially, is both exciting and slightly unnerving. Staring at the glass filled to the brim while your buddy pays for the round usually calls for a vocal “what the fuck are we doing?” Then the liquid hits the lips, tongue, throat and everything turns to ice. It’s like taking a drag of January air in Bismarck.

Your voice rises two octaves as the empty shot glass hits the bar. You then taste the stuff: bitter, herbal, a back note of sweet, a front note of kick-you-in-the-teeth. You think you’re tasting mint. Everybody thinks it’s mint. But it’s actually saffron — a ridiculously high concentration of it. In fact, some have speculated that Fernet-Branca uses as much as 75% of the world’s saffron and controls the global market. Your head starts to spin a little bit. The ice starts to thaw and you now feel like you’re breathing fire. You wonder if your breath will set your girl’s hair on fire. You pause. Your buddy is buying a second round and the bartender jumps in. It all starts again.

Here are eight stories and recipes related to the mysterious, and by the sounds of it quite popular, Italian spirit: