Drink This Now: Fernet Branca on Draft at Citizen Public House
Kayla Quigley, bar manager at Citizen Public House, remembers her first dram of Fernet Branca—and it is not a happy memory.
“I was like, why does everyone drink this?” she says, laughing. She was at Citizen, and the bracing, black amaro had been pulled from a draft line. This was a couple years before she started working there, but it was after she finished up a bartending shift at Sweet Cheeks just down Boylston Street. Quigley became bar manager at Citizen last fall.
“I cringed, and pretended I liked it, just because everyone else did. But I do like it now,” she says. “You can do a lot with it, and I think that’s why I appreciate it now.”
Citizen, known for a stacked lineup of brown spirits, opened in 2010 as the first bar in Boston to have the industry’s favorite digestif on draft. For the past couple years, other amari replaced Branca among Citizen’s lineup of draft liquor, but with Quigley guiding the program, the classic is back.
Fernet—an Italian spirit with a minty bitterness that people tend to love or loathe—has been a favorite of bartenders, chefs, and other restaurant folk for years. No one really knows why, but the drink is an acquired taste, so it makes sense that industry people have developed one for it. Steve Brand, executive chef at Citizen, has a theory:
“Ten or 15 years ago, bartenders and bar managers didn’t notice the levels going down, because nobody ordered it, so it was a thing the cooks stole,” he says, laughing. “It could be true!”
Whatever the origin story, the appeal of fernet among restaurant workers is undeniable. It was the main reason Citizen put it on draft to begin with, Quigley says.
“It was an awesome collaboration between [opening bar manager Joy Richard and Fernet Branca] to make Citizen not only a neighborhood spot, but also an industry spot,” Quigley says. “I wanted to reestablish that relationship.”
And she’s taking it a step further. This Sunday, Citizen launches a new brunch series, aimed at showcasing partnerships the bar has with the brands that help it run, Quigley says. For the rest of the month, branch will highlight Branca.
Quigley’s new list of All-Black Fernet Cocktails will be front-and-center, paired with new dishes like James Beard’s cream biscuits with sausage gravy and Southern fried chicken, and the Original Fat Rich, Citizen’s Italian sub with fried pickles and peppers.
“The idea for the brunches in general speaks to these hidden figures behind the bar, who are heavy hitters on our program,” Quigley says.
All-Black Fernet Cocktails
- Oh Canada – Rye, Fernet Branca, Bitters
- Menta hot chocolate— high menthol content
- Coco Milano – Dark Rum, Lime, Coco Lopez, Bitters, Amontillado Sherry, Fernet Branca
- Fernet About It! – Fernet Branca, Cola, Vanilla, Becherovka
Branca Brunch, Sundays in February beginning February 12, 11 a.m-3 p.m., Citizen Public House, 1310 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston, 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com.