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?”
“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.