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Elements: Branca Menta

Not only was opera singer Maria Callas one of the world’s most renowned and influential sopranos, she can also be credited for the existence of Branca Menta, Fernet-Branca’s minty younger sibling. The story goes that before every performance, La Divina enjoyed the venerable amaro with a bit of mint syrup. Naturally, her legions of fans wanted to copy her, which pushed Fratelli Branca Distillerie to bottle and sell Branca Menta in 1965. At a gentle 30 percent ABV, and perked up with Piedmontese peppermint, the minty liqueur is a refreshing go-to, either sipped on its own, as a frappe, or with some club soda.

One might assume that since both liqueurs are made from the same proprietary recipe of more than two dozen herbs and spices—a polarizing mix of flavors for some—the sweeter, peppermint-laced Branca Menta would be even more challenging to incorporate into cocktails. But many bartenders have become adept at picking out the amaro’s notes to pair with other flavors, making for beautifully layered complexity in drinks. Finding that Branca Menta complements honey and orange flower water, Harry Chin, lead bartender of MW Restaurant in Honolulu, combined the three ingredients in his variation on Audrey Saunders’ Quick Little Pick-Me-Up shooter. Today, his Tea Tree Sour is his default bartender’s choice option for guests who want something citrusy and refreshing.

Other bartenders sub in Branca Menta as a more robust alternative to crème de menthe. When Los Angeles bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk, author of Clean + Dirty Drinking: 100+ Recipes for Delicious Elixirs, Made With & Without Booze, created her take on the classic Stinger cocktail, she reached for a bottle of Branca Menta because “the crème de menthes that were on the market were super-sweet and fake-tasting,” she says. And in her recipe, the amaro gives “the cocktail some depth and base notes, as well as bitterness and aromatics.”

As a modifier, the amaro adds minty sweetness, herbaceousness, and chocolate notes. In his Snow Flurry coffee cocktail, Chris Hewes of Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos, California, uses Branca Menta as a counterpunch to the earthy notes of espresso. “It blends perfectly with the oat-milk orgeat, not overpowering the drink with sweetness,” he adds. “It has a delicate balance of mint, allowing for a refreshing style of cocktail.”

Snow Flurry

Branca Menta adds herbaceous complexity to the flavors of espresso and oat milk.

4 oz. oat-milk orgeat
1 oz. Branca Menta
1 oz. coffee liqueur (Hewes uses Borghetti)
1 oz. espresso

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: highball
Garnish: mint sprig, orange peel

Shake all of the ingredients with ice, strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish.

Oat-Milk Orgeat: In a medium saucepan, warm 16 oz. of oat milk, 4 oz. of agave nectar, 1⁄4 oz. of Cognac, and 4 dehydrated oranges (or the peels of 2 oranges) over low heat for 5-10 minutes to reduce the mixture and make it a bit creamier. Strain and bottle for use; keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Chris Hewes, Nella Kitchen & Bar Los Olivos, California

Tea Tree Sour

In this adaptation of Audrey Saunders’ Quick Little Pick-Me-Up, Branca Menta lends gravitas to the bright mix of Cognac, lemon, and honey.

1 1⁄2 oz. Cognac
3⁄4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 oz. Branca Menta
1⁄2 oz. honey syrup (3:1 honey mixed with hot water)
1 dash orange flower water

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: Nick & Nora or other stemmed goblet
Garnish: mint leaf

Shake all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Harry Chin, MW Restaurant Honolulu


For her interpretation of the classic cocktail, Gabriella Mlynarczyk taps Branca Menta for its extra-minty depth.

2 oz. blended Scotch whisky or brandy
1 oz. Branca Menta
1⁄2 oz. crème de cacao
1⁄3 tsp. vanilla extract
6 mint leaves

Tools: muddler, bar spoon, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: double Old Fashioned
Garnish: mint sprig

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass and lightly muddle the mint leaves, then add ice and stir to chill. Double strain into an ice-filled glass, and garnish.

(Note: For a richer cocktail, add 1 oz. of cream to the mixture and swizzle the drink in a highball glass with crushed ice.)

Gabriella Mlynarczyk, Los Angeles

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