Monday, December 7, 2009

Fernet Branca Love on Rise in New York

The other day I went to my local Brooklyn liquor store for a bottle of Fernet Branca. I needed it for research; I was testing some drinks that were to be included with a coming article of mine. I don't typically buy Fernet for pleasure. Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against it; I love many an Italian amaro. But I appreciate Fernet more than I actually enjoy it.

Anyway, when I was at the checkout, the cashier mentioned how they had had trouble lately keeping Fernet in stock. At one point they had run out and had to quickly order a new and larger shipment. This surprised me. Fernet's always been an acquired taste, and San Francisco acquired it long, long ago. But New York's never been know as a Fernet town to my knowledge. I consulted with Damon Boelte, the bar manager down at Prime Meats. Damon likes Fernet, both the regular and the Menta, and I know that he showcases a couple Fernet based drinks at his joint. I asked if he shopped at the liquor store in question. He affirmed he did, and probably contributed to its depletion of stock. But, I wondered, is that all? Or is there more to the story?

I contacted Laura Baddish at the Baddish Group, which reps Fernet Branca in the U.S. to see if sales of the bitter had spiked in New York. Eureka! Indeed they had. Baddish said sales of Fernet Branca had increased in the New York metro area by more than 50% since January 2009. That's some climb. She said the increase is due to the number of outlets buying the product (on and off premise), and the amount being sold by those who buy is increasing as well.

It could very well be that a lot of overzealous, inventive, amaro-loving bartenders are mainly responsible for the uptick in Fernet sales. But I suspect it's a little more than that. As far as I can see, people seem to like the Fernet-based drinks going around. And once you develop a taste, you may ask for it at another place, which is then forced to carry Fernet; or you just bring the Fernet home and drink it there. But 50% is 50%. Something's going on.

So, as a Fernet-loving city, does this means we're all sophisticated and stuff?


Anonymous said...

I first tried Fernet Branca in Argentina where it is typically mixed with coke and consumed in large quantities. Fernet and coke is essentially the national drink of Argentina, aside from wine. I'm not hooked. There is definitely a trend of Americans living abroad in Argentina right now, perhaps their return has also added to the rising sales.

Anonymous said...

So I tried it for the first and last time. I think its disgusting I threw up. Ughhhh