American Fernet Taste Test - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Prior to the booming popularity of bitter liqueurs, fernet was the mysterious cool kid—the “bartender’s handshake” for those in the know. The traditional Italian amaro with menthol-forward flavors and a bracing bitterness isn’t exactly approachable on first sip. But the continued fervor for esoteric flavors, particularly in the bitter realm, has expanded the category exponentially over the last decade. Though Fernet-Branca still stands as the spirit’s most prominent spokesmodel, American makers are tapping local botanicals to offer their own interpretation of the classic liqueur. Here are six options to sip solo or sample in a cocktail, such as the Appetizer à l’Italienne.

Eda Rhyne Appalachian Fernet

Pouring a deep, nearly opaque brown, the Appalachian Fernet from Asheville, North Carolina, distillery Eda Rhyne opens with a musky, botanical scent like a damp forest floor. Eda Rhyne aims to evoke place with each of their spirits, and the fernet utilizes a collection of aromatic herbs native to western North Carolina, paired with global spices, that pack a punch and leave lips tingling. Just enough sweetness keeps everything in balance, and the finish remains dry and gently bitter. $44.95,

Faccia Brutto Fernet Pianta

Brooklyn-based spirits maker Faccia Brutto crafts Fernet Piantain homage to founder Patrick Miller’s Italian grandfather. Made with 21 botanicals like saffron, myrrh, and peppermint all infused into a neutral grain spirit, the golden-hued Fernet Pianta opens with sweet aromas of mint and spice. A menthol mouthfeel is punctuated with bright botanical notes and a nicely balanced bitterness. $44.96,

Fernet Francisco Manzanilla

This cola-colored fernet opens with sweet floral aromas and a hint of spearmint, which belies the immediate hit of bitterness and spice on the palate. Of the 12 botanicals in the fernet from Bay Area distillery Falcon Spirits, manzanilla (chamomile) is called out by name. It’s a fitting identifier, as the spirit retains a delicate, tea-like complexity with a pleasantly dry finish. $39.99,

Letherbee Fernet

With their penchant for unique spirits bordering on the esoteric, Chicago-based Letherbee Distillers crafts a fernet with an aim toward a smooth, approachable digestif. Deep brown in color, the liqueur opens with earthy floral aromas from saffron and myrrh, followed by sweet flavors of spearmint. Though it’s one of the sweeter options of the bunch, the fernet offers a balanced, slightly tannic finish. $44.99,

Fernet Michaud

Portland, Maine’s Liquid Riot Bottling Co. redistills a wheat-based neutral grain spirit for their Fernet Michaud, into which they infuse a blend of 22 roots, herbs, and spices. After infusion, the liquid is rested in used Maine blueberry wine barrels for five months. The resulting golden brown liqueur is menthol-forward with earthy spice notes. Lightly sweet up front, it has a spiced, peppery finish that lingers. $44,

Fernet Leopold Highland Amaro

Produced since 2012, the Highland Amaro from Colorado distillers Leopold Bros. starts with their own neutral grain spirit, into which they steep more than 20 botanicals before aging in former Chardonnay casks. The caramel brown liqueur carries floral aromatics reminiscent of a Western-style gin, including rose, chamomile, and elderflower. Flavors of sweet mint lace through a bitterness spiced with ginger and sarsaparilla, leaving a notable tingling sensation on the palate. $35.96,

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