The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

Toronto Cocktail

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I don’t remember exactly when I first learned about Fernet-Branca. But somehow, perhaps four or five years ago, a bottle of it found its way into our liquor cabinet, and for a long while after that I didn’t quite know what to make of it.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

It’s a beast of an amaro, an aggressively herbaceous Italian liqueur with a flavor that’s often described as “medicinal” and almost always “an acquired taste.” It has a muddy brown color and an intense aroma with a distinct menthol flavor that lingers after you sip it.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

It’s insanely popular in Argentina, where it’s frequently mixed with Coca-Cola, and it’s long been popular with bartenders in San Francisco where it remained legal during Prohibition for its reputed medicinal properties. Some claim it aids digestion or prevents hangovers, and while there might be something to the former claim I highly doubt that any compelling evidence exists to support the latter. Among bartenders it’s become a popular shot.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

It’s a tricky ingredient in a cocktail. Because its flavor is so strong, it easily takes over the whole drink. And yet, when used judiciously and mixed with flavors that can stand up to it, Fernet adds a complexity that’s simply unmatched.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

Enter the Toronto. It was the first cocktail I had that taught me to appreciate Fernet’s wackadoo personality. And although I’ve enjoyed Fernet in other drinks, the Toronto is still the first cocktail that comes to mind when I think of Fernet.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

It’s a riff on the Old Fashioned made with either Canadian whiskey or rye (I always make it with rye), a bit of simple syrup, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and a judicious amount of Fernet. It gets a squeeze of orange peel (or even better, a flamed orange twist) as a garnish.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

It’s a bracing drink, strong as all get out, with a spicy, herby bite from the Fernet. The simple syrup and the orange help to sand off the rough edges.

It’s a brash cocktail, and I’ll admit it won’t be for everyone. But if you’ve made Fernet’s acquaintance, this is a good way to make it a friend.

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net

The Toronto. A riff on the classic Old Fashioned with rye, simple syrup, and a judicious amount of Fernet Branca. Not for the faint of heart. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious | www.blossomtostem.net
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The Toronto

Yield: 1 cocktail
Source: Adapted from Brad Thomas Parsons’s Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas
This riff on the Old Fashioned is made with Canadian whiskey or rye, but I think it’s better with rye. I like Old Overholt, which is pictured here, and is a reasonably priced old standby when it comes to rye, but this would be a nice place to show off a higher end rye if you have it. There are other Fernets out there, but I’ve only ever made this with the classic Fernet-Branca. If you want to get fancy, you can garnish this with a flamed orange twist.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces rye or Canadian whiskey
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • orange peel for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add the rye, simple syrup, Fernet-Branca, and Angostura bitters to a mixing glass. Add a generous amount of ice, and stir until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a piece of orange peel. It’s nice if you give the peel a squeeze to express the oil over the drink and run it over the edges of the glass to enhance the orange aroma. Serve.

 


11 Comments

  • First thing I hear about this drink! Sounds intriguing though. I’ll look for it in stores over here but I don’t think it’s verry common known over here! Thanks for Sharing

    Reply
    • Thanks. Good luck finding Fernet-Branca.

      Reply
  • This recipe sounds incredible! I’ll def be making it for Thanksgiving coming up! Beautiful pictures, by the way!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jessica!

      Reply
  • I wasn’t familiar with the Fernet-Branca, so thanks for this! We’re usually looking for a new cocktail for the holidays, (and we don’t do fussy and/or sweet ones). If I can find the liquor, we may give it a try!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Tamara! This is neither fussy nor sweet, so it sounds like it’s right for you. Fernet-Branca is usually pretty easy to find at well stocked liquor stores.

      Reply
  • I’m not into herbal liqueurs, just not my taste but I love your photos! And who knows, maybe I’ll try this recipe one day 🙂

    Reply
    • Candy, I hear you. These are definitely not for everyone.

      Reply
  • I haven’t tried Fernet, but I am trying to up my cocktail game, so I may have to try this. Beautiful photos!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Erika. Fernet is definitely an acquired taste, so don’t be surprised if you don’t like it the first few times you try it. But once you get past the initial phase, it can become something you crave. (At least it is for me.)

      Reply
  • Ha, I love this post! I have to meet Fernet, and I’m not even a hardcore cocktail person. Gorgeous pics. 🙂

    Reply

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