All roads lead to Rome. At least they do for Wirtz Beverage Nevada mixologist Andrew Pollard. “I’m continuously inspired by the culture of the ‘Old Country,’ and the fine spirits that derive from it,” he says. Pollard brought his love for Italy with him to the recent 10th annual Tales of the Cocktail spirits and bartending convention in New Orleans. At happy hours, a “Spirited dinner” (attended by the sixth Count Branca—the real deal!) and even a cocktail breakfast, Pollard carried the banner of the Distillerie Branca portfolio, including the cultish Fernet Branca.
Established in Milan in 1845, this potent, pungent amaro (bitter) and digestivo calls San Francisco its stateside home, but has made its way into nearly every major cocktail market in the U.S., including Las Vegas. Here, Vesper at the Cosmopolitan dominates as the volume leader. But thanks to a healthy beverage-industry devotion (not to mention actual taps installed at Herbs & Rye and Sirio), Fernet Branca generally flows like water wherever bartenders roam.
At Tales, Pollard prepared the Old Country for a swarm of his compatriots at the Hotel Monteleone’s famous Carousel Bar. “Sweet flavors of dried fruits, blood orange and vanilla are contrasted with robust notes of cardamom, baking spices, gentian and peppermint,” Pollard says, describing the drink. “It is essential when looking at a recipe that all of your ingredients are holding hands.”
Through his work, Pollard educates bartenders about the importance of ‘cocktail DNA,’ its lineage. “Breaking down this specific cocktail, it shows the likings of an Old Fashioned—strong, sweet and bitter,” he says. It achieves this with Solerno blood orange liqueur from Sicily; Carpano Antica Formula from Turin, the first Italian sweet vermouth; and Fernet Branca, still a closely guarded proprietary recipe and often as much the hangover cause as it is the cure.
In a mixing glass, gently stir 2 ounces Carpano Antica Formula, 1 ounce Fernet Branca, ½ ounce Solerno, 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters and 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a bucket glass and garnish with an orange twist.