Fernet is a type of bitter or amaro of Italian origin with a dark, caramel color and licorice-like flavor.


also known as Fernet – Branca

What is Fernet?

Fernet is a type of bitter or amaro of Italian origin with a dark, caramel color and licorice-like flavor.

  • This spirit is made from a combination of grape distillate and over 27 herbs and spices, which are mixed in a secret room then aged in oak barrels.
  • While fernet is the type of amaro, the name of the first brand (Fernet-Branca) has become synonymous with this liqueur.

The intense, herbal menthol flavor of this liqueur has been known to create a love-hate relationship with drinkers. However, this amaro is the most popular liqueur consumed in the city of San Francisco and is also the national drink of Argentina.

The top seven best-selling specialty spirits are:

  1. Martini
  2. Jägermeister
  3. Aperol
  4. Fernet-Branca
  5. Ricard
  6. Campari
  7. Ramazotti

Origin of fernet

This alcohol was born in the Italian city of Milan in 1845 but like many alcoholic beverages before it was primarily used as medicine. Its creator, Bernadino Branca, mixed the now famous 27 herbs with grape distillate to create this beverage which was intended as a “digestive”. This new beverage spread throughout the country and it wasn’t long before people were enjoying the amaro abroad. In 1862, this drink became popular in the United States and Fernet-Branca soon opened its speakeasy in San Francisco. 

The 19th century saw many Italians immigrate to Argentina after World War II and take their love of this amaro with them. Eventually, Fratelli Branca established their distillery in Argentina and this licorice liqueur became a nationwide hit. Fernet converted itself into the national drink of the country with its most popular rendition being Fernet con cola. Today, this drink is still well-known, especially among bartenders who refer to a single shot of the amaro as “the bartender’s handshake”.


This spirit can be enjoyed as a stand-alone drink, as well as mixed in an array of cocktails. This amaro has many uses in the kitchen and is very popular in baking. It’s common to find this in cakes, cookies, and desserts that use deep chocolate or coffee flavors. Not to mention, this liqueur has more recently become popular in the kitchen where it’s used as a marinade, saute, or caramelize vegetables and meats. Additionally, this licorice liqueur is a popular addition to coffee or hot chocolate. 


The brand and recipe of this amaro dictate its nutritional values. Nonetheless, a 1 ounce serving of this liqueur can contain:

While this alcoholic beverage came to fame for its health benefits, there is not much scientific research on the subject. Although this liqueur does have significantly less sugar than other spirits, possibly making it a better choice for those who choose to drink.

Commercial Production

This famous amaro has long been made with a secret family recipe that is mixed behind closed doors. What is known about this drink is that it’s a combination of over 27 herbs and grape distillate. This mixture of herbs and spices contains myrrh, linden, galangal, chamomile, cinnamon, saffron, iris, gentian, and bitter orange among other ingredients. As this is a dry liqueur, there is little to no sugar added in the process. Finally, the mixture is left to age in oak barrels for 12 months before it’s bottled.


Fernet’s bitter flavor and strong herbal taste might not make it suitable for everyone. However, if you are an amaro lover, it’s vital to store this liqueur properly. Spirits should always be kept in an airtight container away from light and heat. The sugar in amari helps keep them shelf-stable, so you can store your this at room temperature. Experts suggest that you should consume this spirit within a few weeks to a few months after opening it for optimal taste.

Fernet recipes

This liqueur is the star of many cocktails and some desserts. Here are a few popular recipes:

FDA Regulation

As with all types of alcohol, the FDA also provides labeling recommendations, but the TTB regulates and inspects the alcohol. This agreement was established with the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. Fernet is commonly imported into the United States, which is overseen by the TTB. Although fernet is commonly known as a ‘digestif’, the TTB does not approve of this classification.


Bell, Emily. “10 Things You Should Know About Fernet-Branca.” Vinepair, Vinepair, 1 Aug. 2018, vinepair.com/articles/fernet-branca-guide/

“Fernet Branca: Keeping It in the Family.” World’s Best Bars, World Best Bar, 12 Oct. 2018, www.worldsbestbars.com/fernet-branca-keeping-it-in-the-family/

Compton, Natalie B. “How Fernet Took Over Argentina.” VICE, Vice Media Group, 26 Nov. 2018, www.vice.com/en/article/wj3xbw/how-fernet-took-over-argentina

Slaughter, Sam. “Fernet-Branca Is the Bitter Darling of the Cocktail World Now.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 30 Aug. 2016, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-30/fernet-branca-is-the-bitter-darling-of-the-cocktail-world-now.