Fernet is a bitter Italian amaro. Amaro means “bitter” in Italian, so keep in mind this is a bitter, sometimes sipped after dinner as a digestif.

Fernet is an interesting spirit. Sugar is added to make it a liqueur, rather than a liquor, and it is not bitter enough to be considered a cocktail bitter, as it is entirely drinkable and not concentrated. It is a type of amaro like Aperol, Campari, Cynar, Chartreuse and even Jägermeister. That’s right, Jäger, the shots I would drop into a plastic cup of red bull during my college years, is actually a sophisticated digestif. I *totally* knew that.

Portland-based Liquid Riot Bottling Co. makes what I consider a slightly sweeter fernet, Fernet Michaud, which I love. Fernet is often referred to as the “potable bitter,” and I *gag* disagree…but not when it comes to Liquid Riots’ fernet. Liquid Riot starts with a neutral base and infuses 23 botanicals, roots and herbs, which then rests in Maine blueberry wine barrels for five months. Try it in one of my favorite versions of a Manhattan, which I aptly named the Fernet Manhattan.


1.5 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/3 ounce Liquid Riot’s Fernet Michaud

Fill a shaker with ice and all the ingredients above. Stir for about 20 seconds then strain into a glass.

Jessie Lacey resides at the heart of downtown Portland with her border collie puppy Josie, making cocktails and trouble.