You don’t need a Fernet Branca challenge coin to order the Old Country, or any Fernet Branca cocktail for that matter, but it does help. Dwarfed though our market is by Fernet-obsessed San Francisco, Las Vegas is the birthplace of this important new cocktailian meme. Borrowing from the military tradition of carrying a coin indicating one’s regiment, last year, Infinium Spirits’ Nevada state manager Tore Kragerud and his brother (maker of coin-like golf markers) collaborated on a Fernet Branca challenge coin, which was then given out to Las Vegas’ most devout Fernet Branca drinkers. Cheaper than a Fernet Branca tattoo, and faster than growing a handlebar mustache, the coin thing is, to say the least, a screaming success.
The rules of engagement take a page from Vegas’ own history: You make a wager. By throwing down your challenge coin, you are announcing your bet that your buddy doesn’t have his. If he cannot produce his, he’s buying. But if he does, the round is on you. No wonder sales have spiked! Kragerud has since minted Fernet Branca challenge coins for Downtown Cocktail Room and Vesper, and already other markets, such as California, Oregon and New York, are getting in on the action. There’s even trading going on! (POGs, anyone?) For some, Fernet Branca might be an acquired taste. It took me about a month to wrap my palate around the complex, herbaceous flavor. But winning always tastes good.