You Can Use Fernet Like Cocktail Bitters

You Can Use Fernet Like Cocktail Bitters
Photo: mark beevers, Shutterstock

Last night, as I was making three bottles of my homemade Irish Cream liqueur (for gifts), I decided one of those bottles should be Kentucky Cream, and reached for the bourbon instead of Irish whiskey. After combining the cocoa powder, condensed milk, cream, and whiskey (as well as a pinch of salt and splash of vanilla), I stirred it all up and gave the mixture a little taste. It was good, but it needed something. That something, my friends, was a splash of fernet.

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Though I drink fernet by the cup (over ice, of course), not everyone loves its bitter, bracing flavour as much as I do. But even if full-on fernet is a little much, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it completely. Much like cocktail bitters, Fernet has an intensely herbal flavour that can add just a touch of complexity to beverages, if you use it sparingly. The Hanky Panky, for instance, only has a couple of dashes of it, and it wouldn’t be a Hanky Panky without them (it would just be a Gin & It, which is also pretty good).

But beyond the Hanky Panky, fernet can be used like any cocktail bitter to give your drink a little edge. If you’re using Fernet-Branca, that edge will be a little minty and slightly medicinal; if you’re using Mexican fernet, it will be warmer, and heavy on the baking spices. I used a bit of vanilla-infused fernet I had laying around for my Kentucky Cream, and find it quite pleasing.

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