Hot Buttered Fernet for Fall

For those who know me, I have a slight penchant for Fernet Branca, the black, bitter & acquired taste amaro from Italy. One of the strongest flavoured of the herbal liqueurs, it has become in recent years, for lack of a better word, a cult favorite in the bartender circle. Usually served as a shot; a handshake to a known bartender or industry stalwart pulling up a stool at your bar after a long evening to help them recover from the possible tyranny of another service. From “challenge coins” to the annual bar back games held in Australia, Fernet Branca has burnt its place in history as an industry standard that every bar must have.

But it has many more uses than as a restorative tonic, one of the unofficial “national” cocktails (in my book), the “Toronto” uses a mix of Canadian Whisky, Angostura Bitters, a splash of simple syrup & of course Fernet Branca. Over the years, I and many, many bartenders have developed cocktails using Fernet Branca as a main ingredient. The “Fernet Flip” has been showcased in EAT before, Clive’s Classic Lounge has had Fernet & house made cola (an Argentinian staple) on tap and we have even tried a recipe from another prominent Pacific North West bartender, Bradford Knutson out of Olympia, Washington.

Bradford a few years back developed a recipe for “Hot Buttered Fernet Branca”, an amazing compliment of flavours. Fernet Branca is not easy but definitely not hard to mix with, it’s big, spicy, aggressive little beast that can overtake a lot of ingredients but mix it the right way with the right thing and it becomes the whole string section in the orchestra, playing with the subtleness of a piccolo violin and the punch of a bass cello. Bradford’s recipe is apple, apricot, butter batter and the key ingredient, Fernet Branca. At Clive’s Classic Lounge, when the winter chills started coming knocking on the door; we would build this in a crock pot and keep it hot for the night. The great thing with the crock pot is that the mix, if not used in one night just keeps getting better. The butter mixture emulsifies and browns into the liquid more, the spices extract further and the alcohol all melds a little better.

Fernet Branca, if used for good and not evil, is an enjoyable, mixable and incredibly satisfying flavour to work with. Don’t be scared of the black amaro from Italy –  the country of the bitters. The recipe below is for a single serving and for a crock pot batch for friends; it’s slightly tweaked from Bradford’s purely for availability here in British Columbia.

Hot Buttered Fernet for Fall

Single Serving

¾ oz (22.5mL) Fernet Branca

¾ oz (22.5mL) Calvados

½ oz (15mL) Apricot Liqueur (preferably Giffard)

6 oz (180mL) Sea Cider Rum Runner

1 heaping bar spoon of Buttered Rum Mix (recipe below)

Put all spirits in a heat proof mug, in a saucepan place cider and buttered rum mix. Heat to dissolved and pour over spirits.


Crock Pot, Party Size

1 bottle (500mL) Fernet Branca

500mL Calvados

330mL Apricot Liqueur

5 bottles of Sea Cider Rum Runner

240g Buttered Rum Mix


Place all ingredients in crock pot and put on high for 1 ½ hours before your guests arrive. Put on low or keep warm setting for the rest of the night.

Buttered Rum Mix – Combine 453g (1 pound) softened butter, 60g (1/3 cup) packed brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Whip together and store in the refrigerator.

Written By:

one of the most recognized bartenders in his homeland of Australia at the time, and relocated here for love with the city’s honest and unpretentious food and drinks (and for his lovely now-wife). In his years here, Shawn has ...

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