San Franciscans are the most avid drinkers of Fernet-Branca outside of Italy (where it's made) and Argentina (where it's the unofficial national drink). A bitter digestivo that includes myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile and saffron among its many herbacious and aromatic ingredients, Fernet has forever been the not-so-secret handshake for local bartenders.
First brought to the West Coast by Italian immigrants, Fernet-Branca actually survived the Prohibition Era by billing itself as a "medicinal elixir." Now old Italian grandfathers do it. Hipsters do it. Even my Earth mother, holistic pharmacist at Pharmaca—the very picture of clear-skinned health—tells me it's the only thing she drinks. Jason King, owner of The Broken Record puts it simply: "It's an industry drink, and people look to bartenders for cues on what to drink. It started getting so popular three years ago that I couldn't stock it fast enough." Recently Fernet on-tap and Fernet desserts have become a thing. It seems like our love knows no bounds.
Bartenders and mixologists have reached new heights of acclaim over the past few years, with countless books and articles elevating the work of fancy cocktail-slingers and dive-bar beer-pourers alike. Yet one key component of a bar's operation remains unsung: the barback. These hardworking folks serve as the prep cooks to the bartender's chef, keeping them in limes, ice, and kegs during the busiest hours-- all while enduring the death stares of waiting patrons who don't realize that they're not allowed to serve them.
Overeating at Thanksgiving dinner is not only accepted, it's practically expected: after the dishes are done, the holiday requires very little from its participants other than a snooze and a half-hearted viewing of Midwestern NFL games. And as many veterans of Turkey Day have learned, the uncomfortable fullness of the huge meal and the added stupor of some good wine can turn into a gastrointestinal nightmare after the fourth quarter ends. So if you want to have your turkey feast but still be peppy for those Black Friday sales, we recommend topping off your dinner with a shot of amaro, the Italian herbal digestif that's best known to San Franciscans as the genus of our beloved Fernet-Branca.