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Fernet, Argentina’s favorite drink

Simon Staedeli

Fernet is a dark, bitter and dense drink originally brought over by Italian immigrants. The most popular brand, Fernet-Branca, has been around since 1845 thanks to Bernardino Branca from Milan. To this day, it continues to be produced according to the original recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation. The exact formula is a secret known only to the Fernet-Branca president, Niccolò Branca. In 1907, Branca opened their Buenos Aires factory, which is now the only other Branca factory in the world aside from the one in Milan.

Back in 1907, Branca opened its first Fernet factory outside Italy in Buenos Aires

Even though there are many other Fernet brands – 1882, Cinzano, Vittone, Ramazzotti, etc., Branca is considered the number one among them all. So if you are drinking Fernet during your stay in Buenos Aires, we recommend it be Branca!

Fernet is particularly popular among people from the province of Córdoba. All over Argentina, the terms “Cordobese” and “Fernet” go hand in hand. Between Buenos Aires and Córdoba, Branca sells 65% of its national production.

In Italy, Fernet has always been a digestive drink, drunk after a large meal. That’s the reason why Italians in Buenos Aires get horrified by the fact that we mix it with Coca-Cola and drink large amounts of it during asados, meet ups with friends, and other social events.

Fernet and Coke

Due to it’s the high percentage of alcohol and moderate price, it’s the drink of choice between teenagers too. Until a couple of years ago it used to have 41% of alcohol, but due to the effect it was having on the young generations, the Argentina Government ruled in favor of reducing it to 39%. On Saturday nights, particularly around 2 am, you’ll see young (and old) people gathered with a half empty Coca-Cola bottle which contains this Fernet mix. This particular way of carrying drinks is known as “Viajero” (traveler) by young culture.

The perfect recipe for a “Fernet con Coca” includes lots of ice, 30% fernet and 70% Coke. Tip: do not forget to tilt the glass while pouring the coke or you’ll end up with a very foamy drink, I’m taking about 60% of you glass filled with very-hard-to-get-rid-of foam. You don’t want to deal with that!

Now you’re all set to arrive in Buenos Aires and give Fernet a try! Just a heads up, it’s an acquired taste and you may very much dislike your first sip.

The most drunk Fernet in Argentina: Branca

We’ve asked a couple of past Roadies and international travelers who visited Buenos Aires their thought’s on Fernet, and this is what they had to say:

  • “I don’t like it by itself and I thought it was so odd that people drank it. But with Coca-Cola, and chilled, it was actually good haha! We poured cups of the mix and I was like: I guess this isn’t too bad.” – Julie Miller (MA, USA).
  • “Most unusual taste ever but still somehow loved drinking it.” – Meghan Marr (NY, USA).
  • “It tasted like medicine… now I love that medicine, bebida espitiruosa haha! – Roberto Neri (Venezuela).
  • “It tasted like cough syrup mixed with licorice root & saffron:) Not a Big fan!” – Catherine Beraud (CA, USA).
  • “My first thought on Fernet was, did I get the same drink as all these Argentines?!? Because they seem to love it and I think it tastes strong and unusual… Am I going to have to learn to love this?!? Now I find myself randomly trying a Fernet and cola at a bar to reminisce on my time in Argentina” – Kendall Bajek (PA, USA).

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