If you’ve ever been to Macao Trading Co. on a Monday night (industry insiders’ night) you may have been convinced to do a shot of Fernet-Branca. The ultra-bitter Italian digestivo gets compared to Campari and even Jagermeister, but tastes like neither. It’s medicinal and spicy, and is gaining a following among bartenders who are using it in cocktails like the Hanky Panky. But most sane people with functional taste buds would agree that it should not be knocked back. Sipped, absolutely. Shot, never.
“To be considered a real career bartender, you have to embrace Fernet-Branca,” says Dushan Zaric, co-owner of Macao Trading Co. “Bartenders are a crazy bunch of people. They will choose something so far from the mainstream and train themselves to love it. Now, Fernet-Branca is the official shot of the staff.”
If the staff at Macao love Branca, then the feeling is mutual: Zaric and his partners are the brand’s biggest account in the city. They were rewarded with a visit from Count Branca himself, who came by to sign bottles and do shots with the staff.
“He’s a real European count. He wears an ascot. Blue blood, but really cool,” says Zaric.
A real count, who does shots.
Hanky Panky Cocktail
1 3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet-Branca
Combine ingredients in a shaker or mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.