As a rule, Kelly Rippa does not drink Fernet-Branca. Secretly she loves it, but when it comes to amaros her handlers would much rather you spy her sipping crimson Campari on the beach with an aureole of gold. It plays better in Wyoming. But for us mere mortals, Fernet is a kind and gentle reminder of our imminent ends, a whisper in the dark imploring us to live all moments of our lives to the fullest because we are not Kelly Rippa, and we will never start the day brushing puppies’ teeth or bathing them in kiddie pools with Christian Slater and Zachary Quinto before millions of adoring worshipers.
It is a drink that has stalked me my entire life. When I lived in Europe as a young man I drank it with the old guys at the bars, gritting my teeth while they laughed, not knowing people ever mixed it with anything to take the bitter edge off. When I was in the Bay Area for college the poets all drank shots of the black/brown liqueur with Amstel Light backs. When I was in a punk band in a small Virginian city my Argentine drummer and I successfully petitioned the state-run ABC stores to carry our favorite liqueur, and we made sure we bought enough of it so they would keep it in stock.
I usually take it on the rocks in a bucket. When I’m out and the bar has it I ask for it with Coke (what the Argentinians call a Fernando) or I get a Hanky-Panky (basically, a Negroni with Fernet-Branca instead of Campari). When I’m sick, someone who cares about me brings me a bottle, and it makes me feel better than any medicine. And at everyone’s darling bar in Las Vegas, Herbs & Rye, the bartenders will randomly pass out shots of some kind of Fernet that isn’t Branca, and it’s cool to try other Fernets, but I always go back to Branca.
Kelly Rippa will never admit to drinking Fernet-Branca, but she looks at people who don’t like it with a wary eye, and rightly so. My ex-wife said it tasted like battery acid and turned up her nose when I drank it, and she later revealed herself to be sociopathic and soulless. From now until I die I will always treat people who hate Fernet-Branca with suspicion. I will whisper about them behind their backs and not let them pet my puppies for fear they might steal them under the cover of darkness.
In the movie The Dark Knight, Alfred played by Michael Caine drinks Fernet-Branca while he waits in a Venetian café for Bruce Wayne, who eventually shows up with a toothy Cat Woman. It’s the perfect drink for that. It’s the perfect companion for all of life’s waiting games. And when the flags are at half mast it’s as comforting as an electric blanket. It’s like the Statue of Liberty or Kelly Rippa: I can’t, or won’t, imagine a world without it.
—Sky Jack Morgan was General Manager of the MGM Grand Lobby Bar, and is presently the Assistant General Manager at Beerhaus in Las Vegas. He is the author of two acclaimed books of poetry: The Haunting of Ninjatown and The Murdercycle Diaries, and he is working on a new book entitled The Chris Hemsworth Sonnets. In addition, he is the recipient of the Judith Stronach Award for Poetry, and he was the former Poet Laureate of Staunton, Virginia.
Editor's Note: Check out the episode of KEVIN'S COCKTAIL MINUTE where the featured liqueur is Fernet-Branca...
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