The Bucking Branca is a Fernet-Branca champagne cocktail that derives it’s name from when Sarah tipsily proclaimed it belonged in the hands of sophisticated derby-goers.
What? Were you expecting something clever…?
Ahem. Anyway, I’m going to further unnecessarily justify this drink’s name by another fact: it’s a kicker, a bucker, a mother-bucking head spinner. It maintains its delicate, elegant spring airs, and it goes down like a fruity can of the finest seltzer that somehow winds up bubbling in your brain instead of your stomach. In other words, it’s super smooth and really, really strong.
So, what’s it taste like?
Here’s where I may have to sell you a little bit on this drink. If you’ve already had Fernet-Branca, please proceed to the instructions. If you haven’t, let me warn you: this aromatic, sometimes hard-to-find liqueur is PUNGENT. Fernet-Branca tastes like someone coarsely ground the contents of a sixteenth century apothecary’s medicine cabinet, lit it on fire, and rolled what was left into a cigarette.
You thought Chartreuse was herbal? HA. Let me say it again: HA. Chartreuse is like Fernet-Branca’s pet kitten. In fact, legend has it that the eagle on the bottle actually descended from Hephaestus’ corner of Mount Olympus to bring us this potent liqueur straight from the distillation of the ashes left over from crafting Zeus’ lightning bolts.
…Hm. I may have made that last bit up.
The non-hyperbolized version is that Fernet-Branca is very bitter, very herbal, and finishes with the slightest hint of menthol as a result of the high-concentrations of saffron (allegedly) in the mix of its 27 different herbs. It’s an incredibly unique flavor – and one that most people may find needs to be tempered.
Once it’s juiced down a little with some citrus and bubbly (hence why this is a Fernet-Branca champagne cocktail and not one intended to harm you) the resulting taste is actually incredibly pleasant and difficult to describe: complex, only slightly bitter, with notes from grassy, to peppery, to burnt orange.
The actual drink has elements of these tasting notes, but the end result is a bit more finessed – and even harder to describe. I’ll try to abstract it for you.
Take an orange and a grapefruit. Mix the flavors. Throw them in the sink. Start over. Now move to a breezy spring meadow, take a sip of fizzy grapefruit-flavored seltzer, and then smell some flowers.
…That didn’t help? Maybe you should just try it…
The Bucking Branca: a Fernet-Branca Champagne Cocktail
Tl;dr – here’s how to make the cocktail.
- Cocktail shaker
- 1.5 oz. vodka
- .5 oz. Fernet-Branca
- juice of 1/2 red grapefruit
- About 2 oz. of sweet rosé champagne to top with
- NOTE: We used Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial, but any kind will do, so long as it’s very sweet.
How to Put This in Your Mouth:
- Fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Add the grapefruit juice, Fernet-Branca, and champagne.
- Shake until icy cold.
- Strain into a glass and top with champagne.
Photography by Sarah Alice Photography