Fernet adds a minty refreshment to cold, winter nights | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Fernet adds a minty refreshment to cold, winter nights

click to enlarge Fernet, scotch, and apple cider cocktail at Apteka - CP PHOTO: RYAN DETO
CP photo: Ryan Deto
Fernet, scotch, and apple cider cocktail at Apteka

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so mint-flavored things are everywhere. I know it doesn’t make any sense: Irish cuisine rarely calls for mint.

But mint persists everywhere anyway, likely because it's green like shamrocks (but also like every other plant). In that vein, I implore Pittsburghers to lean into the mint madness, but this time with some Italian booze that has no connection to Ireland. The mint-flavor connection is just a mass-marketing scheme that is taking advantage of false scarcity anyway.

Fernet is an Italian liqueur that is popular all around the world, but particularly in Europe, South America, and San Francisco. It’s hardly scarce. Recently, fernet has been popping up at several bars in Pittsburgh. It is enjoyed on its own as a digestif after a meal, mixed into cocktails, or even combined with sodas. 

The Italian libation is made up of several different herbs and tastes bitter but refreshing. The base liqueur is made from grapes; herbs like chamomile and saffron are included, but it’s unclear exactly what ingredients make up the entire formula. Popular conjecture says peppermint oil makes an appearance and that would be hard to disprove. 

Fernet packs a minty wallop, which means it’s a perfect beverage to refresh your spirits on those cold, gloomy, late-winter Pittsburgh days. Here are some great spots to enjoy some.

Allegheny Wine Mixer

The Upper Lawrenceville wine bar specializes in well, wine, but patrons have really taken to a new fernet-based cocktail called Good Dog Carl. It’s combination of rye whiskey, fernet, and Pedro Ximénez sherry, topped off with an orange peel. The fernet isn’t overpowered as this beverage provides plenty of mint up front, followed by sherry sweetness and a kick of peppery rye. 


Whiskey and fernet seem to be a popular pair, because this Bloomfield vegan restaurant also combines the two spirits. Apetka’s cocktails are typically heavy on the herbs and their fernet cocktail follows that theme. This version combines fernet with scotch and apple cider. It’s drinkable, sweet, and the scotch shines through with the fernet as minty complement.  

Poulet Bleu

No cocktail necessary here. The French joint in Lower Lawrenceville offers a wide array of digestifs, with fernet available for sample. Drink it alone in a digestif cup to experience the full consortium of flavors fernet has to offer. Tip: It’s even more enjoyable when consumed after Poulet Bleu’s chocolate soufflé, a gluttonous, alcoholic version of the classic mint-chocolate combination.

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