Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MxMo: Brown, Bitter, and Stirred

This month's Mixology Monday event is themed after the blog hosting it: brown, bitter, and stirred.

As it just so happens, I have a recipe that I've been working on for quite a while that perfectly fits this theme. I've been waiting to post it, and so now seems like a great time.

As much as I'd love to be long-winded about this thing, there's really not much to say about it. You can really think of it as an elaborated Manhattan cocktail: you have two ounces of bourbon, you have dry vermouth and cherry brandy to replace the Manhattan's sweet vermouth, and you have Fernet Branca to replace the Manhattan's aromatic bitters. The final result tastes very much like a Manhattan, but just a bit more complex, herbal, and bitter.

Fernet Branca is a bitter liqueur from Italy called an amaro(amari, plural), one of many. It's made from a multitude of ingredients, and it's not for the faint of heart. For example, it's a go-to armament of mine when I win bets with friends, where the consequences involve shot-taking. Not only is Fernet Branca considered an amaro, it's also considered a potable bitters, meaning that it can serve as a digestif but also play the role of bitters in a cocktail. Campari is also in this category. A favorite anecdote of mine is that Fernet Branca can stain linoleum(it's as black as ink), and whoever said this isn't wrong; my last apartment has Fernet stains at various places on the kitchen counter.

Here is the MxMo roundup!

If you like this blog, please, PLEASE, try this drink (if you're able to make it) and post your comments below. I'm quite proud of this drink, and I'd love to know if anyone has opinions on it.


Old Knoxville

2 oz bourbon
.5 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz cherry brandy*
.25 oz Fernet Branca

Stir ingredients with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.

*Cherry Heering liqueur is the best choice here, but I prefer Hiram Walker's cherry brandy. If you use something other than Heering, double the amount. No, a clear cherry spirit/liqueur is not appropriate for this recipe.


  1. Nice! I just made this with a substitution and a tiny addition...swapped rye for the bourbon, and added three drops of Bittermens 'Elemakule Tiki bitters. Quite a tasty libation. This will be a great one for the fall and winter, too.

  2. Yo DJ—is there a bourbon you prefer in the Old Knoxville?

  3. Thanks, Chris!

    Rowen, I would try to lean to the sweet and heavier side of bourbons, my go-to's are Evan Williams and Fighting Cock. Buffalo Trace would be fine too, though I would try to stay away from lighter ones like Maker's or rye ones like Bulleit.

    Then again, if that's all you have, then drinking is always preferable to not drinking, so do what you must.

  4. I tried Wild Turkey first, which overwhelmed it and the parts never quite came together. Next was Eagle Rare, which the housemate and I agree was very nice indeed. I like the way it brought out the menthol and cherry. Housemate liked the cinnamon.

  5. Awesome, thanks Rowen! Yup, Eagle Rare I imagine would do just fine!

    I'll be checking out your post once the Roundup comes out.

  6. I just got around to trying this drink and thought it was very interesting take on a Manhattan. Good enough to put into the fall/winter rotation. Thanks for sharing.