Don’t Give Up The Ship

Don't Sink The Ship

Fernet Branca is member of the Amaro category of Italian liqueurs and bitters. In The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff, he recommends first trying Amaro Averna, which is both sweet and a bit bitter, and Branca Menta, which is Fernet Branca blended with creme de menthe. After enjoying those, he explains, you may be able to make the leap to Fernet Branca, which is rather bitter, and as he puts delicately, an acquired taste.

Fernet-Branca tastes like it comes from the apothecary. Vick’s VapoRub would be the nearest comparison of aroma too. There, I said it. Fernet-Branca is very intensely menthol. But, this is a good thing. Now don’t jump right in and pour yourself a mug of the stuff to sip through the evening. Although a small bit may be good on its own, it really shines when utilized as a cocktail component. Like maraschino liqueur and Benedictine, you only need a small amount to bring out its flavor. I think it works perfectly in the following cocktail, and it gives you an excuse to use another ingredient that may be collecting dust in your cabinet: Dubonnet.

Don’t Give Up The ship

  • 1 1/2oz gin
  • 1/2oz red Dubonnet
  • 1/4oz orange curacao
  • 1/4oz Fernet Branca

Stir with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This cocktail greatly benefits from being icy cold, so I would suggest using the method detailed in Cocktail Chill – A Scientific Experiment.

Source: The Internet Cocktail Database


A hint of menthol enters your nose as you take your first sip, but there is something else there too. A strange combination indeed. The taste is like a cool breeze, and it leaves a tingle on your tongue for a finish. The dubonnet and curacao really balance out the intensity of the Fernet-Branca, and the gin forms a good base for the spirits to comingle.


Fernet Branca is made from 27 different herbs including aloes, rhubarb, red cinchona bark, and gentian root. It also contains interesting spices such as galanga and zedoary. Another ingredient, gum myrrh, is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and contains antibacterial properties. Right from the apothecary. It is then aged in oak barrels for over a year before bottling.

9 Responses to “Don’t Give Up The Ship”

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9 Comments to “ Don’t Give Up The Ship”
  1. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    So you didn’t find my Vick’s Vap-O-Rub comparison that far off! Thanks for the recipe… I look forward to trying it.

  2. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    Just a note to inform you that I’ve linked your website to my Blog (or vice versa). Please inform me if you do not wish for this connection.


    Jamie Boudreau

    Bar Manager




  3. cNo Gravatar says:

    Hmm. Not a bad way to use up that dusty bottle of Dubonnet Rouge, but all things considered I prefer Fernet Branca neat, frankly — no need to pass through Averna and Menta en route. Then again, I’m awfully fond of Cynar, which I gather puts me in something of a small niche, this side of the Atlantic. I see that CocktailDB also offers up the Napoleon — same ingredients, markedly different ratios. I’ve tried the Fernet cocktail with rye, but that just seems like a convenient way to stretch the Fernet Branca … it owns that cocktail, and again, I’d opt for straight Fernet Branca given the choice. I’m going to have a gander at drinks that just use a dash of F.B… as with pastis, much more and the drink is given over, base spirits be damned.

  4. erik_flannestadNo Gravatar says:

    Murray Stenson’s Porteño, which was featured in one of Gary Regan’s Cocktailian columns, is also a very fine drink featuring Fernet.


    Though, I usually make it for myself more like this:


    2 ounce bourbon
    1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
    1/4 ounce cherry brandy
    1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
    1/4 ounce Falernum or simple syrup

  5. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Wow. There’s so much stuff going on with this cocktail. There’s a weird bit of creaminess at the beginning that I can’t put my finger on, though all the other ingredients punch their way through delicately. I must say I am very confused by this cocktail, though, I like it.

    I’d be interested to give the original recipe a try too:

    • 3/4oz bourbon
    • 1/2oz Fernet Branca
    • 1/2oz cherry brandy
    • 1/2oz lime juice
    • 1/2oz Falernum or simple syrup
  6. erik_flannestadNo Gravatar says:

    It’s definitely one of those drinks that make you go hmmmm…

    I usually make a drink the first time to the recipe published; but, I just couldn’t bring myself to try that one to spec. It just seemed waaay too sweet, especially with only 3/4 oz bourbon (typo?).

  7. […] For more Fernet-Branca drink recipes, check out The WebTender and Kaiser Penguin. […]

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  9. Tanya VorganNo Gravatar says:

    Dubonnet collecting dust. That made me laugh. What other fashion secrets do you know about peoples’ cabinets?

    As for “c”, Cynar has the most amount of dust upon it, and will likely always remain nearly, miraculously full.

    I don’t have the featured ingredient for this, but to be fair at the onset, I’ll use the same amount of vodka instead of gin when I first try this.

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