I really wish I could say that I didn’t pick this drink largely because of its name (and because of the resultant off-topic Google searches that will lead people to this blog), but that wouldn’t be quite true. I also wish I could say that I liked this drink a lot more than I did, but that wouldn’t quite be the case either.
Not that this is a bad drink, not by any means — well, not as long as you like Fernet Branca. Fetched from the pages of Barflies and Cocktails, the Stifferino was allegedly created by “Man-About-Town” W.C. Weaver, who dedicated it to “Doc Voronoff” — a name you usually come across in relation to the Monkey Gland (another drink that I realize I’ve never covered on this blog, and may get to as part of the 30/30, even though the recipe’s been thoroughly blogged before, including by myself over at Serious Eats). Here’s how Arthur Moss relates it: “The wintergreen Weaver says its good for all young boys over forty-five like ‘Sparrow’ or George Bowles […] Methusaleh would think he was Ponce de Leon.”
Fernet Branca so thoroughly takes over most cocktails that I was attracted to its use as the foundation for this drink — especially seeing how it was paired with equal parts of dry and sweet vermouth, and experience has taught me that vermouth works wonderfully with the more aggressive Fernet, perhaps because its weaker and more docile nature gives the alpha-booze amari full license to dominate without overreacting in a surly way.
Ultimately, though, this drink is a spruced-up and more elaborate shot of Fernet; the other flavors play nicely together, but there’s not a unifying center. I can see trotting this out for an unusual (and lower alcohol) aperitif for someone who appreciates Italian amari, but otherwise this won’t get a lot of play around the house, no matter what properties it’s alleged to have.
- 1 ounce Fernet Branca
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce dry vermouth
- 1 dash brandy
Stir well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with strip of orange peel.
This drink is part of 30/30, a series of 30 drinks in 30 days — or as much as I can keep up before collapsing in a weary, booze-addled heap.