Welcome to our cozy speakeasy — all mahogany bars and soft leather seating, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There are Italian tunes from the 1960s for vibes, and throwback Fernet-Branca ads lining the walls for eye candy. There are themed cocktails for sipping, and Edoardo Branca for answers — he’s the sixth-generation Branca family authority on bitters.
This is the setting for a tasting of vintage spirits from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as today, from private collections.
Each stop on the Fernet-Branca book tour, “Storied Sips with Edoardo Branca,” will recreate this intimate evening for media and industry folks. The occasion for the tour is the release of his book, Branca: A Spirited Italian Icon, an illustrated history of the Italian distillery, shown through poster art and advertising campaigns the brand has created over the years.
The first tour event touched down in San Francisco, naturally, which is the first city in the U.S. where the bitter arrived in 1862. Italians were enjoying it earlier, though — Fernet-Branca was invented in 1845 by Edoardo’s great-great-grandfather in Milan.
In the intervening 172 years, the recipe has never changed. “A lot of people came to us — why don’t you add sugar? Why don’t you make it more palate-friendly?” Edoardo says. “I think all of you remember the first time you had a shot of Fernet-Branca, and maybe it wasn’t a pleasant experience. But it grows on you… You like it or you don’t, but we will never change.”
We like it.
Try replicating one of the recipes from this event series drawing on the past, present, and future of Fernet-Branca.
is a writer based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in publications including Brooklyn Magazine, Refinery29, and VICE Motherboard. She never misses an opportunity for a costume party and knows the best burger in New York is at a hole-in-the-wall Pakistani joint in Bushwick.