Fernet is not the kind of alcohol that you would associate with the Czech Republic at first thought. Initially, because it is an Amaro, Fernet is native to Italy. So how did Fernet Stock end up being produced in the Czech Republic? It doesn't seem like a huge stretch. After all, the two countries are only a few 100 miles apart. But the story is a bit more complicated than it seems.
Let's look more closely at the Czech-Italian liqueur Fernet Stock. What it is, how it tastes, and how the herbal liqueur ended up near Plzeň.
What is Fernet Stock?
Fernet Stock is an alcoholic beverage of 38% ABV made from a carefully guarded secret recipe based on 14 different herbal ingredients coming from all over the globe. The official description indicated that those botanicals are mainly from the Mediterranean and the Alps. But we have a few more details on the list of the ingredients in the herbal bitter liqueur.
The liqueur belongs to the Fernet category. Fernet is a subtype of Amaro, a group of herbal and bittersweet liqueurs. The base is a distilled grape spirit infused with various herbs and spices. Needless to say that each brand has its secret recipe.
Fernet Stock may not be the most prominent of these herbal liquors. Still, according to IWSR, it's one of the biggest brands of herbal-bitter liqueurs worldwide.
Like with other herbal liqueurs, the ingredients of Fernet Stock are a well-kept secret. But a few of its 14 herbs are known:
- Gentian root
- Quinine bark
- Roman chamomile
- Hypericum perforatum, which is also known as St. John's wort
Other herbal ingredients come from the Pyrenees, Cameroon, and Indonesia. Which ones exactly or what the measurements are, is unknown to the public.
A quick primer on Fernet
Fernet are bitter herbal liqueurs with a high alcohol content. These herbal bitters have their origin in medicine, much like amaro. The first Fernet recipe was created by an Italian doctor, Dr. Fernet, who combined over 50 herbs and botanicals in a secret formulation. In 1842, Felice Vittone in Milan refined the recipe for better taste, launching "Fernet Vittone."
Only three years later, Bernandino Branca of Fratelli Branca Distillerie, also in Milan, introduced his version, "Fernet-Branca," now the world's most famous Fernet. However, "Fernet-Branca" is often mistaken as the name for this type of drink, when in reality, "Fernet" refers to the drink style, and "Branca" is the brand name. The classic herbal liqueur is made from 27 ingredients and is known for its distinct herbal bitter flavor.
How to drink Fernet Stock
- Neat at room temperature or over ice
- As a shot
- Mixed into coffee or espresso
- Used as an ingredient in cocktails (especially for newcomers to Fernet)
Fernet Stock is traditionally served as a digestif. You can drink it at room temperature or over ice, with many opting for a straightforward shot. However, if you're new to Fernet, it might be more approachable to begin by incorporating it into cocktails or coffee.
In Italy, it's common to enjoy Fernet neat throughout the day or after meals, highlighting its versatile nature. So whether you're sipping it straight, mixing it into cocktails, or adding it to your coffee, Fernet Stock offers a delightful exploration of flavors.
The Origin of Fernet Stock - A Czech Fernet
I want to explain how an Italian product ended up in the Czech Republic. It is hardly surprising that it all started with an Italian, the founder Lionello Stock.
Lionello Stock was a businessman and industrialist. In 1884 he founded the Camis & Stock company in Trieste, Italy. Back then, the main product was Cognac and not Fernet.
By the end of World War I, trading became increasingly challenging, and Stock decided to look for an additional distillery in another country. In the end, he found a place located close to Plzeň, in Božkov.
After founding a subsidiary called Stock Cognac Medicinal, the company started bottling products sent from Italy. But step by step, the subsidiary began to participate in production, as well.
In 1927 the company first began to produce Fernet Stock in a liqueur factory in Plzen-Bozkov. But during World War II, the Nazis claimed ownership of the company as they considered it "Jewish property".
In 1947, after the war had ended, Lionello Stock was able to regain control over his company. But his luck only lasted for about a year before the whole subsidiary was nationalized.
It took almost 45 years for the Stock company to reclaim its subsidiary again: After the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Stock became an independent joint-stock company. And ultimately, its Italian parent company, as the former owner, took over the majority of shares in 1993.
How does it taste?
The taste of the Czech herbal liqueur is similar to other Fernet. That means it's slightly sweet with an intense herbal flavor from gentian roots and quinine bark.
Although the taste is very much on the herbal side, the liqueur feels well-balanced. When served neat, the spicy and herbal taste is best paired with a fresh lemon peel.
Because the flavor of Fernet Stock is so similar to other Fernet, it's an excellent replacement for Fernet Branca in cocktails and when served neat.
Other Stock products
Just like Fernet Branca released a sweeter, more minty version with Branca Menta, Fernet Stock also offers products in sweeter form like Fernet Stock Citrus. Besides the classic Fernet Stock, the Fernet Stock brand range currently offers the following products:
- Fernet Stock Citrus
- Fernet Stock Pear
- Fernet Stock Cranberry
- Fernet Stock Lemon Mix
- Fernet Stock Honey
- Fernet Stock Spiced
- Fernet Stock Barrel
- Fernet Stock Standard
- Fernet Stock Zetko Mango and Ginger
Most of these are pure niche products. Only Fernet Stock Citrus and the Fernet Stock Barrel are more mainstream.
Fernet Stock Citrus
The Citrus variation of Fernet Stock is the second most sold product from Stock. Over the past years, Fernet Stock Citrus has become one of the best-selling liqueurs in the Czech Republic.
Due to its natural fruity citrus aroma, the liqueur appeals to many different palates.
The liqueur is based on the traditional recipe and refined with fresh citrus notes. The result is a light, refreshing herbal liqueur with only 27% ABV. The best way to serve the liqueur is perfectly chilled or on ice.
Fernet Stock Barrel
Fernet Stock Barrel is the second most popular twist on the original. To me, it is the most interesting of all their variations.
To make the Barrel version, traditional Fernet Stock gets enriched with four different cane sugar Rums. All of these come from the Caribbean and Latin America, namely from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Jamaica.
The Caribbean Rums brings even more complexity to an already complex liquor. They add sweet notes from vanilla, dried fruit, and nuts that blend perfectly with the herbal ingredients of the Fernet recipe.
The liqueur is bottled at 35% ABV and is a fantastic choice for sipping and mixed drinks.