Way back in mid February, I received an email from a NYC PR firm asking if I’d be interested in trying Branca Menta, a mint version of the potent Italian digestif known as Fernet Branca (click here to read this excellent article about Fernet Branca from The Atlantic ). Since I am a fan of the bold, bracing, and ultimately polarizing Fernet Branca, I took them up on their offer, and a bottle arrived on my doorstep shortly thereafter.
I immediately tried the Branca Menta when it arrived, but found it to be way too sweet to drink on its own (Fernet Branca is bottled at 39% ABV while the Branca Menta is bottled at 29% ABV, so I’m guessing the 10% ABV drop off is due to the addition of mint syrup), and decided that I needed to figure out the best way to enjoy this liqueur. In order to narrow down my options, I sent an email to the PR firm for some advice. Before I get to their serving suggestions, let’s talk a bit about the actual tasting session.
Two Saturdays ago, Mrs. G-LO was asked by a friend if she would be available for drinks. Since that friend just happened to be Mrs. Alemonger, it was decided that Mrs. G-LO would go to their house while The Alemonger would come to our house in order to assist with the Branca Menta “research”.
The Alemonger showed up at around 9PM, and we immediately got down to business, i.e. I mixed up the drinks, took some photos, and grabbed a pen and paper for my tasting notes. Since it didn’t take very long to evaluate these drinks, we quickly moved on to a Whisky tasting which included the Chivas Regal 18, Hakushu 12, Bunnahabhain 12, and the Balcones True Blue.
Here are just a few of the topics that came up during this 4+ hour “research” session:
- The glory days of late 70s / early 80s grand slam tennis. In particular, we discussed the excellent HBO documentary about the legendary Borg and McEnroe rivalry.
- Proper management of conversational tangents.
- Giada DeLaurentis
- The Ferrari 458 Italia and other lust worthy modes of transportation.
- My inappropriate use of Christmas lights for booze and beertography.
Before we get to the tasting notes, below are the Branca Menta serving suggestions that I received from the PR firm…
Branca Menta and Sprite
- 1/5 Branca Menta
- 4/5 Sprite Ice
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour in the Branca Menta. Top off with Sprite. I used Mexican Sprite which is made with Cane Sugar instead of Corn Syrup.
Branca Menta the Italian Way
Branca Menta poured over ice and served in an Old Fashioned glass. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
- 1/5 Branca Menta
- 4/5 Tonic Water
- Juice from half a Lime
- Smashed Ice
- 1/2 teaspoon of Brown Sugar
- Mint Leaves
- Smashed Ice
In the bottom of a Collins glass, add the Branca Menta, Brown Sugar, Mint, and Brown Sugar. Muddle until the Brown Sugar dissolves. Add ice, then fill with Tonic. Give it a brief stir to mix the ingredients.
And now for my tasting notes and final ranking…
#3 – Branca Menta and Sprite
This was my least favorite way to enjoy the Branca Menta. I took something that is quite syrupy sweet when sampled on its own, and made it taste even more syrupy sweet with the addition of the Mexican Sprite. Since this drink became flat fairly rapidly, there could have been something wrong with the Mexican Sprite since I have no clue when it was bottled or how long it was sitting on the shelf at the supermarket.
#2 – Branca Menta the Italian Way
Straight up, Branca Menta is way too syrupy sweet for my taste, but pour this over some massive ice cubes and I could really see myself drinking this more often. This is very cool and refreshing, but with that slightly bitter and herbal aftertaste that I enjoy from the standard issue Fernet Branca.
#1 – Mintonic
The Mintonic reminds me of a mellow, yet lightly bitter Mojito. I like how the mint, tonic, and lime play together. Even though it was diluted quite a bit, you still get the astringency of the Fernet coming through in the finish, but with a bit of lime tartness thrown into the mix. I will definitely be making this again!
So there you have it! Three different ways to enjoy Branca Menta. Stay tuned for The Alemonger’s impressions which I’m sure he will add in the comments below. And while we’re on the subject of comments, if you know of a better way to enjoy this liqueur, feel free to tell us about it. Cheers!
Many thanks to The Baddish Group for this very generous sample!
Categories: Booze Review, Branca Menta, Cocktails
It just so happens that I was there that night so I might have a thing or two to share (especially relating to those tangents). Surprisingly, I took legitimate tasting notes. Not surprisingly, I don’t have them handy and probably wouldn’t be able to decipher them at this point anyway thanks to having been handicapped by a generally sub-standard public primary and secondary school education in Pennsauken which didn’t particularly emphasize penmanship as a valued skill. Fortunately, my elementary school years were spent only 2 blocks from home which allowed me to walk home for a lunch of Chunky Sirloin Burger Soup 3-4 days a week. I don’t recall pairing that soup (or any other dish – Swanson Salisbury Steak Entree, for example) with Branca Menta but that’s what flux capacitors and Deloreans are for so there’s hope.
As for the cocktails themselves, I’ll expound upon the Ricola Three Ways a bit later today….
I do recall the tasting notes. I also recall not being able to read them. Looking forward to your always insightful and usually hallucinatory impressions of this odd, yet thoroughly compelling, liqueur.