Here is a link to the original article, this is a snippet of the beginning including my favorite line ever in bold at the end.
The Myth of Fernet
The saga of Fernet, and its cultlike popularity, says a lot about San Francisco
Published on December 07, 2005
Excellence knows no oceans, no frontiers.
— inscription, Fernet-Branca bottle
Our story begins above the ocean with the dearly beloved namesake of a reclusive Italian count lying stone-silent in a child’s coffin, among the suitcases and souvenirs in the cavernous belly of a commuter jet bound for the New World.
The quiet package is in the possession of two young Americans. They had a carpenter in Lucca, Italy, fashion the diminutive pine casket, dutifully packed it with their fragile cargo, and saw it past the unquestioning customs officers, who, back in 1999, enjoyed an age when baby coffins were treated with less suspicion than they might be today.
When the container is pried open some 8,000 miles later, in one of the newest restaurants in one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods, the contents are pulled from the yawning mouth and carefully placed on display in a softly lit glass case, ending the miraculous passage from their homeland in Italy to their final resting place, on Fillmore Street.
“I had a couple friends …,” begins Scott Dammann, proprietor of the Eastside West, starting the tale of how he acquired the celebrated and highly sought-after trophy.
For San Francisco’s devotional, seeing the contents of the coffin — an unopened, perfectly preserved 3-liter bottle of Fernet-Branca, the ancient Italian miracle drink with a remarkable local cult following — was like discovering the Holy Grail, filled to the brim.
The legendary liquid in that emerald bottle is more than merely San Francisco’s preferred method of self-medication; it’s an intoxicating fairy tale. And even though Dammann’s story is one that demonstrates the devotion of Fernet’s fans, in a city that drinks more of the liqueur than any other locale in the United States and more per capita than any place on Earth, there are plenty of asses on barstools with a story to tell about Fernet-Branca. And in telling the tales, they continue the life of the drink itself, which was born of myth, and somehow along the way has become perfectly suited to San Francisco’s palate.
This is how Fernet-Branca came to thin the lifeblood of our city.
If I say to you, “Fernet-Branca,” what is it? Yeah, you’ve had it? It’s good isn’t it? It does the job. But,
oh the taste.
— Bill Cosby, “Fernet-Branca” from Fat Albert, 1973
You never forget your first time.
When you hold a shot glass of Fernet-Branca to your nose, the first thing that strikes you is the physicality of the smell, which, if such a thing existed, is like black licorice-flavored Listerine. Put it to your lips and tip it back, and the assault on the throat and sinuses is aggressively medicinal. For many so-called “Fergins” uninitiated to the drink, it can be accompanied by a feeling that may either bring a tear to the eye or lunch to the esophagus. As a bitter Italian aperitif of more than 40 herbs and spices, it most often gets compared to Campari and Jägermeister, though by measure of accuracy, it’s equally similar to Robitussin or Pennzoil.
It’s so difficult to love that James Hamilton-Paterson’s Booker Prize-nominated novel Cooking With Fernet-Branca is a 281-page sendup of the taste, including stomach-turning recipes like otter with lobster sauce and Fernet-Branca.
If you can imagine getting punched squarely in the nose while sucking on a mentholated cough drop, you’ll have an idea of Fernet-Branca’s indelicate first impressions.
Truly pure poetry, and one of the best lines ever.