We were recently offered a bottle of Fernet Branca and a bottle of Brancamenta (Samples Policy) and challenged to come up with with a couple of blended drinks. Normally, we’re just not fans of blended drinks. Too many associations with Slurpees and the cheapest grain alcohol that money can buy (usually not what we’re about around here, in case that wasn’t obvious ;)). But this particular challenge piqued our interests, plus we’ve been embracing the tiki approach to lots of ice in drinks. We’ve come around to see that it can work great if you use the technique with the right type of drink. We’re big fans of both Fernet and Brancamenta too, so we figured why the hell not. Challenge accepted!
We started off with the Brancamenta. Given its minty character and the request to make something blended, we leaned towards a riff on julep. We started by pairing the bourbon and the Brancamenta, and that worked as expected. We were then curious if continuing with the classic flavor profile of a Georgia mint julep using peach would work. Turns out it does indeed. But the drink still needed a bit of brightness. Lime juice to the rescue. Finally we needed to sweeten it up. We’ve been reading up on blended drinks as we mentioned above, and apparently you need the recipe to be fairly sweet. Plus the drink was way too dry without it. 😉
Next up was the ice. We’ll be honest, since we don’t really do blended drinks we weren’t sure where to start. But blender in hand we started to blend up some ice to see what we could figure out. We quickly discovered that just crushing up the ice in the blender, adding the drink and blending again wasn’t doing it for us, as this made for a pretty dilute drink. So try, try again. What if we only crushed up some of the ice, add the drink and then blend again. No longer as diluted, but now there were big chunks of ice in the drink instead. Not a winner. Finally we thought what if we depart the text a little bit (when have we ever done that? Oh right all the time!) and instead just crush up the ice in the blender, pack it into the glass, and pour the drink over it like an actual julep. Perfection! Not too diluted, but icy cold. Just the way we like it.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz Brancamenta
- 1/2 oz peach liqueur
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
Mix all ingredients together. Blend up some ice until well-crushed. Pack it into a glass. Pour drink over ice.
- Nose: Mint, peach, grain and caramel. All very faint.
- Palate: Sweet caramelized peach to start, followed by mint, camphor and lime. Mid-palate is sweet grain, vanilla and caramel. Finish is camphor, mint, and faint medicinal bitterness. Nice dry finish for a relatively sweet drink.
Delicious. Definitely an interesting riff on a julep. Easy to drink on a hot summer day.
Next up was the Fernet. As we’ve discovered in the past, Fernet Branca pairs very nicely with lime and orange flavors. Christa was curious to pair it with an un-aged spirit, since we so often reach for whiskey or brandy with Fernet. She thought maybe something with more herbal or vegetal flavors would work well. Aquavit wasn’t a terrible pairing, but the Fernet really pulled out the toasty caraway flavor to the point where it dominated everything. Regular gin was tasty but a little rough-edged. Hmm, we thought, maybe a slightly sweeter Old Tom style would work better? Yes, yes it did! With that combination as the base, we added lime and orange juice and bitter, to bring those flavors to the drink in several dimensions. Tasty, but it still needed a fair amount of sweetness. We split the difference between simple syrup and St. Germain, with the latter bringing grapefruit and floral flavors that rounded out the drink perfectly.
- 2 oz old tom gin
- 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
- 1/2 oz St. Germain
- 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash lime bitters
Mix all ingredients together. Blend up some ice until it’s the consistency of snow. Pack into a glass. Pour the drink over the ice.
- Nose: Camphor, myrrh, juniper, tiny bit of lime peel
- Palate: Cooked orange and orange peel to start. Herbal notes from Fernet and gin on the mid-palate; juniper, myrrh, camphor, plus a little bit of lime peel. Big bright hit of orange on the mid-palate and into the finish. Finish is sweet/tart lime juice and medicinal, slightly bitter notes.
Also delicious. Once again the pairing of Fernet, lime, and orange is a serious win. Light and easy drinking with the complexity of the Fernet adding some lovely depth to the drink.
Overall we’re super happy with how both of these drinks turned out plus, we’re continuing to get over our aversion to blended drinks. The cool icy-ness with the nicely balanced acidity and herbal notes make both of these excellent for summer. We can see ourselves happily drinking either/both of these especially, when the weathers hot.