Posted by
John Barclay
• 06.28.11 11:16 am


To many North Brooklynites, Fernet Branca is more than just a slug flavored herbal liqueur. It is a class signifier, a secret handshake shared by Mixologists, Artisans, Urban Homesteaders, Creative Dads and other Cupcake Capitalists to gain entry into their smug underworld.

Subtle shades of pickled beets from the Ukraine, the cheap bitterness of Gulag-era unsweetened black licorice, the intense notes of lukewarm Jagermeister and expired Robitussin — to many North Brooklynites, Fernet Branca is more than just a slug flavored herbal liqueur. It is a class signifier, a secret handshake shared by Mixologists, Artisans, Urban Homesteaders, Creative Dads and other Cupcake Capitalists to gain entry into their smug underworld.

Never before has a spirit separated the proles from the bourgeoisie with such accuracy and scope. Its proponents taking great pride in knowing that no tacky or local person could ever enjoy this herbal sludge. No contemporary Guido, no Redneck, no Pole, no Puerto Rican, no one native to their current neighborhood could ever stomach this and that gives them a feeling of self satisfaction so overwhelming they cannot help but ask:

“You guys don’t have Fernet, do you?”

“Oh, you do!”

“Skyler, Fernet shots?”

“Oooh, Fernet!!!”

“Three Fernet shots!”

“I’m sorry, four! Four Fernet shots!”

And then the sick fucks will take their shots and with the pitch black garbage juice still dribbling down his chin, the most annoying one in the group will go, “SOOO GOOD!” and start blabbing about how much he loves Fernet, how much Fernet he drank in San Fran last summer and how it’s the national drink of Argentina.

The whole point of this song and dance is to capture the attention of, and impress, innocent bystanders. It is not rare to witness a Fernet enthusiast push his poison on someone who will very clearly not enjoy it, for there is nothing more that the Fernet drinker enjoys than pretending to be surprised when his vodka-soda or High Life drinking victim’s face wrinkles after taking the shot.

I don’t know what Fernet means to the rest of the world, but in North Brooklyn it is a very new and politicized subject that deals not only with taste buds but also with class, gentrification and race. Despite being around forever, it has only recently gained momentum in these parts, a fact that any bartender can attest to.

And that momentum has only been gained with a very specific demographic: Cupcake Capitalists — Caucasians in their 30s and 40s with shitty Euro sensibilities and Etsy accounts. Fear them, for with them and their Fernet Branca comes the final plagues of gentrification and an Orwellian nightmare wherein friendly Heroin Bodegas and neighborhood dives are replaced by artisanal cupcakeries, co-ops and cocktail bars.

-JOHN BARCLAY


Comments
  1. newnumberorder says:

    No, sorry, you’re mistaken. Fernet is the best drink. Period.

  2. Billy says:

    whats with all the fucken capital Ts?

  3. Hey says:

    Well written. Enjoy.

  4. Damn Straight says:

    Co-sign.

  5. FaceHeadAss says:

    The Bar Scene people always have their insider drinks. Bartenders always do shots of Grand Mariner, or Grandma, as they call it. Wine snobs look for wines with notes of cat pee and horse manure. Brooklyn grupsters drink Fernet.

  6. scoob says:

    sounds gross

  7. scoob says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernet actually this list of ingredients makes it sound good “a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit. Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which vary according to the brand, but usually include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron,[1] with a base of grape distilled spirits”

  8. This nonsense needs to stop says:

    People who enjoy Fernet are the same smug assholes who thought they were awesome for drinking Zima in 9th grade. Which is fitting because high school never ends for a lot of the residents of North Brooklyn.

  9. Christi Bradox says:

    Yawn. Italians have a shot of Fernet after dinner so they can shit nice the next morning. More than one little glass of the stuff and you’re doing it wrong. (same goes for Jager)

  10. This makes sense…

    “About the San Francisco factor: The City by the Bay accounts for 60 percent of Fernet-Branca’s U.S. market share, though no one we spoke with can explain exactly why.”

    http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/03/fernet_branca.html

  11. richie goldbaum says:

    Christi’s got it right.

    I’ve been drinking this since I was 12.

    It’s a digestive. If you try and get drunk on this stuff, you’re retarded.

  12. Anchor Porter is the next PBR says:

    There I said it.

  13. ONLYMERK! says:

    yes San Francisco. it’s a bartender thing. but also a locals thing. i’m not annoyed by it at all (though the Brooklyn version you describe sounds horrible). it’s also the quickest way to get called out as a Bay Arean when drinking in foreign bars, like this:

    SFer in NYC: can i get a Fernet with a ginger back?
    NYC bartender: are you from SF?
    SFer in NYC: yes.

    and then check out this new horrible Fernet-themed song by SF rapper Equipto
    http://youtu.be/frJq0_qMaj8

    (overweight-aging Hip Hoppers in baggy pants and gaudy flat billed caps are the new JNKOs (nee bellbottoms))

    xo

  14. Ames says:

    Sorry for the party rocking.

  15. iwontslowdown says:

    I drink to forget my existence, not to define my essence

  16. Wow says:

    You self-righteous fuck.

    Ever stop to think that maybe people don’t live their lives trying to impress whoever the fuck you are?

  17. immattcash says:

    I know a bartender that sold so much fernet, they sent him a fernet branca bike.

  18. fachoto says:

    this is what homeless people drink in germany…

  19. nacirema says:

    I prefer Cynar. It’s an artichoke liqueur from Italy. Really, I prefer Jameson.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Every day I’m shufflin

  21. homeless says:

    this is hilarious!!! but i think its about bar staff, they get sick of the same shit so they get pumped on a new thing, its been fernet for a while now, but again great article. i still drink the garbage though.

  22. poopsmear says:

    i like how the author brings social class commentary into mundane things…because it’s true. i also like how at least two commentors have said that they were into fernet “before it was cool” sooperlol

  23. pfft says:

    so sick of people ordering this

  24. stephen says:

    shit!

    my grandmother would give this to us when we had an upset stomach. Then when I was 14 I was stealing it from my parent’s liquor cabinet and mixing it with pepsi… My grandfather was red wine/pepsi drinker before dinner…. so naturally I thought all alcohol was best with pepsi…… Once I got my fake ID I didnt have to drink the fernet anymore even though I liked it. Fastforward 20 years in SF with my future wife and all her Hipster Bartender friends are doing Fernet shots with ginger ale. It was a Blast from the Past…. and I have been drinking it regulary the past 10 years…. I think of it more as an at-home drunk type of drinkq not something to be drinking in the bars (low alcohol content)… Fucking idiot hipsters!!!

    Next they will start drinking Galeffi Effervescent with Gin (try it… you will like it. I call it the tricky dicky screwdriver)

  25. strictly for the homos says:

    Muscat will (again) be the next big thing for this crowd.

  26. James Nevins says:

    Guy who wrote this is spot on. It’s ironic and sad because you just know 99.9% of Fernet drinkers feel very much akin to the guy who wrote this when they are actually, quite literally, the subject matter of said article.

    P.S. Bradox is correct. This is something you drink ONE OF after you’ve finished your meal at that restaurant with the portrait of Mussolini hanging in the back room.

  27. Juan says:

    I’m from Argentina and Fernet is one of the most popular drinks here. But most people don’t do shots, they mix it with coke and ice. It’s a great drink, the hangover is not that terrible and you will surely shit nicely the next morning.

  28. luke says:

    OMG YOU GUYS I WAS JUST AT A BAR IN CAMBRIDGE WHERE THEY SENT ME A SHOT OF FERNET TONIGHT. I INSTANTLY THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE WERE THINKING ALL AROUND THE BAR AS THEY LOOKED AT ME DRINK IT.

  29. Paolo says:

    That dip shit in the photo is priceless, no wait, I mean worthless.

  30. .... says:

    too true

  31. Anonymous says:

    I refuse to believe anyone is shooting this. It’s been around for ages at cocktail bars in Vancouver, but it’s basically an ingredient in a mix drink, or you might order it with soda water or something. It’s definitely a class thing inasmuch as you order it at a bar with a resident “mixologist” (read: foodie restaurants), but if you’re ordering it at you local dive drinkery you’re basically just a dick. I don’t think a couple of assholes banging fernet shots at a bar constitutes gentrification…

  32. Yawn says:

    That’s when you order a round Irish car Bombs even more obnoxiously loud to prove how Punk you clearly aren’t. Chuch

  33. Redcorn says:

    The photo is actually a photo of the author.

  34. Shonuff says:

    next time someone tries to buy me a shot of this stuff I’m just going to casually toss the glass over my shoulder.

  35. James says:

    Ha! Hilarious read. I love Fernet and amaro spirits in general, and I’d sooner do a shot of the stuff than vodka, tequila, or some sickly sweet concoction. I totally picked the taste for it all through the wine/spirits and restaurant biz while I was living in Boston. Similar to SF, it’s big up there too.

    I’ll definitely agree with the phrase “a secret handshake shared between mixologists”. Ordering a shot of Fernet (or ordering it to sip neat) sometimes feels like that–a signal you work in the industry (or, apparently, that you’re from SF). It’s not just Fernet, though that’s the most common, but all types of amaro spirits like Averna and Montenegro Amaro.

  36. John says:

    sometimes this site reads my mind. i was just thinking about drinking this shit after watching an italian crime movie from the 70s.

  37. SUPERFRIEND says:

    BARCLAY. YOU’RE BEING WATCHED.

  38. more like barGAY says:

    fuck this pussy soft nigga. homeboy moved up here from the south to join a minimal synth band and he’s putting his bougie peers on blast? NAH SON. go back to fightin paper tigers at “nyc hottest underground boxing (lol) event for hipsters”

  39. matthew b says:

    yeah. geez. what’s with people hating on something they don’t understand? amari have been around longer than this dipshit. it is meant to be a postprandial digestif, but it is not to say it’s not appropriate to have before a night of drinking. it’s an herbal tonic and it’s damn good, especially the drier ones like fernet. “I don’t know what Fernet means to the rest of the world.” well, maybe you should do some fucking research before you write a retarded slap in the face like a little whiny third grader.

    not everyone is a smug little shit and can enjoy something without irony. the real irony in this little scene is that you are being such a bigger snob than you accuse fernet drinkers of being. JUST RELAX. DRINK WHAT YOU WANT TO DRINK, AND LET PEOPLE DO THE SAME.

  40. TPKS says:

    PAUL K!

  41. Federico says:

    Fernet + coca cola try it!

  42. Grinny says:

    It’s sad but true. I actually have always liked fernet branca as something to sip after a meal, but the abuse I saw in Seattle was hilarious.

    1. It’s pronounced fern/eh/brahn/kah
    2. You’re not supposed to go on a bender on a digestif. The thought of it coming back out is enough of a disuasive device.
    3. It’s satisfying to know so many people are forcing themselves to enjoy gallons of this swill. The self loathing is so obvious.
    4. Italy’s economy is in the shit hole. Let the swilling of bilge continue!!!


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