I've been scared to Fernet for years. While it slowly took the cocktail world by storm, I skipped basically any drink with it as an ingredient. But I knew I'd have to try it some day, as evidenced by the two miniature bottles that have been tucked away in my liquor cabinet for years. So I recently broke down and gave it a try, with what is acknowledged as the standard method for getting into this rather intensely flavored spirit.
The Toronto Cocktail
2 oz whiskey (Canadian or rye)
0.25 oz Fernet Branca
0.25 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a strip of orange peel.
The nose is a bit of a jumble with the Fernet, rye, and orange peel vying for prominence. The sip opens sweetly with a healthy dose of mint that carries into the back where it is joined by the rye and bitters. The finish is cleanly minty with a little whiskey and the bitters' spices.
As an introduction to Fernet, I think this works. While it dominates the drink, it's never abrasive or overwhelming. At the same time, I don't think this is a recipe I will reach for again. It needs something more going on to give it complexity or at least counterbalance the Fernet.
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