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Cocktail of the week: Fernet con Coca

It may be a Monday but that doesn’t mean you can’t kickstart your week with a glass or two of Argentina’s most-loved cocktail. As the name suggests, Fernet con Coca is a simple marriage of two ingredients, one exceedingly well known, the other more than a little niche.

Picture: Boston Public Library

Fernet Branca (make sure you use the ‘Branca’ brand name) is an aromatic Italian digestif, made from 27 different herbs and traditionally served after a meal. It was developed by Bernandino Branca in 1845 for the treatment of stomach ailments, and if you ask me it should never have migrated from the medicine cabinet to the bar.

Somewhere along the line it crossed the Atlantic and made it all the way to Argentina under a (far more hip) assumed identity.  From Tierra del Fuego in the South to La Quiaca in the North, it’s mixed with Coke and drunk in copious quantities every weekend. A staggering 25 million liters of Fernet are sold in Argentina every year, with the university city of Cordoba being the biggest culprit.

Central Cordoba (Picture: Louhan)

To prepare it fill a glass (or a sawn-off Coke bottle!) with ice and pour a tot or two (or three or four) of Fernet over the ice. Then add the Coke slowly so that the foam goes brown and a little gooey. Usually I advise against mixing our cocktail of the week yourself, but in this case I’ll make an exception: even my grandma could make a Fernet con Coca.

Interestingly, Fernet is also popular in the San Francisco Bay area where it is usually served as a shot followed by a chaser of ginger ale.

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