A Fernandito is served in a tall Highball glass over plenty of fresh ice. The original and traditional way to name the drink is a lot more descriptive and straightforward – Fernet con Coca.
But Fernandito became more or less the official name, as it is the name under which the IBA lists the drink. Sometimes it’s also called Fernando -not to be confused with the Fernando cocktail from Employees Only bar (which also uses Fernet Branca as a base).
Fernet con Coca literally translates to Fernet with Coke. -I guess you already knew that. But what sounds so unremarkable and trivial is a national cocktail of a large country: Argentina. And despite Fernet Branca is an Italian bitter, the Fernandito cocktail or Fernet con Coca also originates in Argentina.
So let’s find out some more about this basic yet intriguing drink from South America.
History of the Fernandito cocktail
The Fernandito is a typical Highball cocktail you can make of only two ingredients. Unless you’re in Argentina, then there are countless ways of serving a Fernandito. Actually, every glass is the right one there.
The success of the Fernandito cocktail started in the early 20th century when Fernet was first brought into the country by Italian immigrants. From then on, consumption of Fernet grew drastically. There is no written documentation on how and why the spirit was such a huge success. But in 1941, Fernet decided to build a separate distillery in Buenos Aires to keep up with the demand.
For a very long time, Fernet was consumed as an aperitif and also digestif. And that’s still the common way to drink it in Europe.. But in the 1990s, that changed dramatically when the Fernandito became more and more popular. People say that the drink got invented during the 1950s in Cordoba, the second-largest city in Argentina, as a riff on the more subtle Fernet and soda.
But then, there are many other possible stories on who and when the drink got made the first time. However, what is known for sure, is that in the 80s, the Fernandito cocktail became widely popular in the Cordoba Province. From there, it took only a few more years until the drink became a nation’s favorite. But that wouldn’t have happened without the help of Fernet Branca and also Coca-Cola.
Once Fernet realized what was happening in Argentina, their marketing team came up with an idea. They started promoting consumption with coke. First without Coca-Cola’s support, but later both ran co-branded campaigns. One of the biggest marketing stunts was when Fernet handed out samples in bars, popular coastal towns, and distinctive landscapes like the Perito Moreno glacier.
These campaigns were super successful. In fact, they were considered one of the most effective marketing strategies in the whole country of Argentina. From there on, the success of the Fernandito had no limits. And nowadays, you can’t go anywhere without bumping into this iconic drink.
Argentina’s most favorite cocktail
No matter where you go in Argentina, Fernet con Coca is there, too. It’s by far the most popular cocktail in the country. To inexperienced Fernandito drinkers, the flavor profile might be quite something else. The Fernandito cocktail is at the same time bitter, quite sweet, minty, and overall herbaceous. A pretty complex profile considering there are only two ingredients in the drink.
Argentinians love it, no matter at what time of the day. They drink it Saturday night when they’re out partying. And if feeling hungover on Sunday, they counter the headache with a hearty slurp of the Fernandito. And I am not kidding you. They use it to cure a hangover. Scientifically this doesn’t work. But anyway, sometimes it might help to counter a headache with an ice-cold Fernandito.
The drink became so popular that Argentina is now by far the leading country in the consumption of Fernet Branca. Sounds unlikely? Well, it is true. These days, Argentina is responsible for over 75% of the global Fernet Branca consumption. And because it’s so famous there, Fernet even opened a second distillery in Buenos Aires.
Additionally, as the second ingredient is Coca-Cola, the consumption of coke is also way above average. To be precise, Argentinians consume four times the amount of the global average. And these numbers are even more impressive if you count in that it’s “only” due to the consumption of that one drink.
About Fernet Branca
Fernet Branca, affectionately called Fernet, is an Amaro from Italy. Amaros are bitter and aromatic spirits made of different herbs and spices. The base of Fernet is a distilled grape spirit, whereas the other ingredients can vary from time to time, according to Fernet themselves. Some known ingredients include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, aloe, saffron, and cardamom.
At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many Europeans came to Argentina. And with them came Fernet and other European alcoholic beverages into the country. And Italian bitters were an instant success. Fernet is by far the most popular, but also others are pretty common in the country. Mainly these are 1882, Ramazzotti, and Capri.
- 2 oz Fernet Branca
- 6 oz Coke
- Fill a chilled Highball glass with plenty of ice and pour in the Fernet Branca.2 oz Fernet Branca
- Top up with coke and gently stir the drink before serving.6 oz Coke