It is rather ironic that I had to leave Canada for the United States to discover the Toronto cocktail. Maybe even more so when one considers the fact that I would’ve been unable to create this tasty libation if I had discovered it while I was in Vancouver. That’s because Fernet Branca is one of the many great spirits that is unavailable north of the border.
First delivered to the public in 1845, Fernet Branca is a medicinal Italian bitter whose recipe remains a secret to this day. I can tell you that along with myrrh, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, gentian, and peppermint there is definitely saffron. This “secret” ingredient is difficult to hide as the company who produces Fernet Branca, Fratelli Branca, is the largest consumer of saffron in the world, using upwards of 75% of the world’s supply!
The Toronto Cocktail is probably one of the best uses of Fernet Branca I have discovered to date. The Fernet doesn’t try to upstage the rest of the ingredients, but is content to add a subtle mosaic of flavors that slowly change as the finish lingers. The orange zest is a must as it helps to brighten up an otherwise dark drink.
So the next time you find a bottle of Fernet Branca, pick it up and mix yourself a tasty Toronto Cocktail. Raise you glass, look to the east, and take heart in the fact that the “center of the universe” will never have a championship hockey team.
2 oz rye
¼ oz Fernet Branca
¼ oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass.
Take a disc of orange zest and flame it into the drink.
Drop the zest into the drink.
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