When I was a child in Buenos Aires, my aunts and grandma would sip Fernet Branca in the afternoons to “asentar el estomago” (settle the stomach). Made with some 27 botanicals, including myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, lots of saffron and infused in a base of grape-distilled spirits (with 45% alcohol by volume), the beverage, straight, bottle, has a complex, slightly sweet, medicinal flavor, almost like artichoke wine—but stronger. Surprisingly, it combines perfectly with Coke. In Italy and San Francisco, they blend it with coffee.
Nowadays the liquor has become popular with Argentine youth, mixed with ice and Coke. For good memory’s sake, it’s the first cocktail I have when visiting my favorite café in Buenos Aires.
The trouble with life here in the states is, where do you find Fernet? Luckily, because of all the ski instructors from Bariloche, the “Vail of Argentina” it’s not difficult to find Fernet in Vail area liquor stores and some bars.
Beaver Liquors (at 110 E Beaver Creek Blvd, Avon, CO 81620) carries Fernet year-round, while other liquor stores carry it seasonally (since don’t sell much of it when the Argentinians leave). Joe, pictured above, who manages Beaver Liquors pronounces “Fernet Branca” like a native, and says the shop has plenty of Spanish speaking customers and sales associates — so never fear, Spanish is spoken here.
Beaver Liquors also sells pisco, a white brandy distilled in Peru and Chile from muscat grapes. The most famous cocktail made with pisco is the pisco sour. The traditional cocktail includes pisco as the base liquor with freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup, ice, an egg white, and a dash of Angostura bitters. The true traditional cocktail ads a garnish coca leaves.
For the Malbec or Torrontes lover, Beaver Liquors offers a rack full of Argentinian wines.