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A Sweet Bitter Ending: Fernet-Branca And The Great Bitter Bar At Eataly Downtown

Turkey with all the trimmings or perhaps Tofurky and garden sides galore that give way to pulled-belts and casually reclining on the divan.  The pies, cakes, desserts and the second plates can all give way to either tooth-picking satisfaction or food-comas unimaginable.   Post-Thanksgiving moments can involve many a fond memory or several antacids, so how fitting when a nice drink can commemorate or save a moment.  I say, get over your Thanksgiving gluttony the merry way with a digestivi as opposed to Pepto.

A few days ago I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing seasoned magic in the form of an amaro at an tasting in New York City.  An amaro is a bitter herbal Italian liqueur and Fernet-Branca is an amazing one.  Now don't  be dismayed by the bitter, which many are.  Fernet-Branca's distinct bitter note make it very plausible for it to be classified as a digestivi since characteristics of it hit the palette like a sharp espresso.  Although the recipe for Fernet has been kept a secret since 1845, this amaro, originally made to treat cholera in Milan, has fragrant notes from over 40 botanicals including myrrh, chamomile, cardamom and rhubarb.  So the result is a complex but sophisticated amaro that is great neat or mixed into classic cocktails for a bold flavor profile.

That event a few days ago was all about this amaro and was the last leg of a Fernet-Branca tour that hit all the Eataly chains nationwide.  What began in January was a national bar crawl of sorts for the Fernet-Branca Great Bitter Bar at all national Eataly locations.  This week I was treated to an intimate tasting of this specially-installed bar at Eataly's downtown New York location, the last stop on the tour.  What came about were simply pleasant Fernet Branca cocktails that truly let the flavor of the amaro shine while showcasing its versatility and how different bar ingredients work to compliment its unique collection of notes.  

First up was the Ferneta-Groni, created specifically for this last leg in NYC, with Malfy Gin and Carpano Antica.  The Carpano was very botancial & fragrant that together with the juniper notes from the gin plus opposite the notes of the Fernet created a nicely balanced cocktail.  

The Toronto featured Templeton Rye Whiskey, Bitters and Simple Syrup and had a sweet kick from the syrup matched with a definite kick from the more earthy rye whiskey and both were harmonious  with the bitter & botanics.

Fernet-Me-Not uses one of my faves, Tequila, together with Lime and Ginger Beer.  The lime and tequila deliver the great herbal kick that complements the Fernet and leaves a great platform for the warmth of the ginger beer to liven up this cocktail with effervescent sweetness.

Believe it or not but San Fransisco accounts for about 30% of the Fernet-Branca in the U.S.  A classic pairing like that in the Fernet Cola is why.  Also a classic in Argentina, this cocktail uses Fernet & Molé Cola for a bitter, sweet and barky concoction, but it works as an easy drink that has enough of a flavor balance to make it an enjoyable one to order all night.

Lastly, the Milano 75 involves Vodka, Flor Prosecco, Lemon and Bitters.  The prosecco sweetens and livens up this drink and the citrus kick lightens up the drink which is the perfect balance for the heavier bitterness of the Fernet and potent heft of the vodka.  

Five cocktails all celebrating the tenured beauty of Fernet-Branca.  In the environment of Eataly with all its wonderful Italian fare, The Great Bitter Bar at the Downtown location is a great stop for Thanksgiving week or even on its closing day, Black Friday Weekend.  Shop on-line, take in the city and stop in Eataly Downtown for some Fernet to digestivi the day (and leftovers) away.  

The Fernet-Branca Great Bitter Bar is open now at Eataly Downtown 4 World Trade Center Floor 3, 101 Liberty Street New York, NY 10007 until November 24th.

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