Fratelli Branca Distillerie claim that the recipe has remained unchanged since its invention in 1845. According to the company, Fernet was created by the “self-taught apothecary” Bernardino Branca. The name “Fernet” belonged to a Doctor Fernet, a fictional Swede with whom Branca originally shared the credit for Fernet, presumably to add authority to claims of the drink’s health benefits. The logo, featuring an eagle poised over a globe, was designed in 1893 by Leopoldo Metlicovitz. Fernet-Branca is a dark, syrupy alcoholic drink similar to an amaro, with a flavour that’s best described as being a cross between medicine, crushed plants and bitter mud. The exact recipe of Fernet-Branca is a secret but the producers, Fratelli Branca Distillerie, do say that it contains 27 different herbs and spices taken from four continents. Among the known ingredients are aloe, gentian root, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, galanga and zedoary. The rumoured ingredients include saffron.
The easiest way to explain the taste is to imagine Jägermeister without the sugar. You shoot it, immediately getting a strong hit of mouthwash – drying the mouth out, stinging the tongue. Its kind of like getting hit in the nose. Your brain hurts, your eyes sting and water, you cough a bit. Then, as soon as it begins a warm wave of relief washes over and you are left baptized in Italian herbals and golf ball eyed awake.