Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 13, 2010

Toronto Cocktail

I have a strange confession to make. While I’ve enjoyed Fernet Branca for a while at craft cocktail bars, I only recently bought my first bottle for home use. Worse still, once I had a bottle, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. It hasn’t been hot enough to make me want something like a Fernet Swizzle and a lot of the recipes from the Savoy Cocktail Book had either some ingredients that I was missing (IBF Pick-Me-Up Cocktail) or just didn’t seem that interesting to me (Yodel Cocktail or Fernet Branca Cocktail).

Thanks to the glories of the internet, I did find something posted by Jamie Boudreau that both seemed like a great use of Fernet Branca and would hit the note I was looking for on a cool, rainy spring day in the Mid-Atlantic.

Toronto Cocktail

2 oz rye (Rittenhouse 80)
0.25 oz Fernet Branca
0.25 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir in an ice filled mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel and drop the zest into the drink

This is a pretty cool drink. It’s a rye Old Fashioned, with a little Fernet added and served up instead of on the rocks. It could also be read as a de-fruited King Cole Cocktail. The Fernet adds a great bit of vegetal spice to the rye and really takes it beyond a simple rye Old Fashioned.

What I really loved about the Toronto Cocktail is that it gets around what I (and many others) view as the biggest challenge with an ingredient like Fernet Branca: finding balance and allowing to play a role, but not dominate, other ingredients in the drink. The Toronto Cocktail does it marvelously, which is why I can see myself enjoying this one in the future too.

So readers, what are you favorite cocktails that include Fernet Branca?


In the comments, Frederic of Cocktail Virgin points out that the Toronto Cocktail is not by Jamie Boudreau, but is a classic from the early 1900s.  I think my confusion came from Boudreau’s post, but oh well, my apologies. I’ve updated the post to reflect this change. Also, doing a bit more research on the Toronto, I’d say this is a pretty good example of how to not make a precise, well-balance cocktail. For those not paying attention, recipes should be followed precisely and when using ingredients like Fernet Branca, if it says 1/4 ounce, don’t just rush ahead and assume adding 1/2 an ounce will make it taste better. Stirring involves stirring, not shaking slowly.



  1. Don’t forget the Hanky Panky Cocktail!

  2. Of course!

    I guess I have a similar take as you on it though, Erik. It’s good. It’s not mind-blowing. I also think it’s more about being an equal gin/sweet vermouth cocktail than Fernet Branca. Though in fairness, the Toronto isn’t really about Fernet either.

  3. It’s not by Boudreau, but a classic from the early part of the 1900s.

    One of my favorite Fernet drinks is Porteño created by ZigZag’s Murray Stenson.

  4. Thanks Frederic. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

  5. Not sure where the Toronto is from originally, definitely not Savoy Cocktail Book or one of its sources. It’s in CocktailDB, so it is probably in Stan Jones’ Bar Guide.

  6. As I suspected, since it is in cocktaildb, it is in Jones. Jones’ recipe is as follows. Toronto Cocktail. Cocktail Glass, Stir. 2 oz Rye; 1/4 oz Fernet Branca; 1/4 tsp. Sugar; 1 dash Angostura Bitters; Orange Slice.

    By contrast Jones’ King Cole Cocktail. Old Fashioned Glass, Build. Muddle 1 orange slice, 1 pineapple stick & 1/2 teaspoon sugar. 2 oz whiskey; Add ice, stir. (Optional-bitters or dash of Fernet Branca.)

    And people complain about the Savoy Cocktail Book being cryptic…

  7. Yikes, that is some vague stuff.

    I’ve not read Jones’ Bar Guide nor seen the fruit measurement of a “stick” before.

  8. Much better then I thought. I reccomend

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