Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Places You Can Get Fernet: Varnish in Los Angeles, CA

Fernet was previously found in Los Angeles here. 

This past weekend, I journeyed to the City of Angels in search of some saffron-infused Italian bitters. I went to several different taverns, some of which really should have served Fernet (I'm looking at you, Bar 107) but only managed to strike murky brown gold at one place. And what a place it was! Like all good bars in LA, this place was impossible to find and had no sign. Literally. It's an upscale speakeasy-style joint through an unmarked door in the back of a diner called Varnish.

Be forewarned, my friends. Varnish ain't cheap, but the perfectly-mixed concoctions you'll get will be worth every penny. This is doubly true if you order off-menu. For while the specialty drinks are worth your time, you should also feel free to rely on the considerable expertise of the waitstaff and mixologists. For example, one of my companions ordered something with gin, not sour or fizzy, "but extra delicious" and was served a simply wonderful Gershwin.

Needless to say, when I noticed Fernet-Branca on the menu (for $12 a shot no less - yikes!) I thought I'd challenge them a bit. "Whip me up something with Fernet in it," I told Devin, our (completely devastating) server. "Make it interesting."

The result: The Newark. It looked like this.

Dark bars + dark drinks = great times, dark photos 

The Newark seems like a bit of an obscure concoction, but its ingredients are essentially listed as: 
  • 2 oz Applejack
  • 1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Maraschino liquor
  • 2 bar spoons Fernet-Branca
It was served chilled in a cocktail glass, and it was fabulous. The brandy gave the drink a sort of cordial warmth, but this was balanced by the forward fruity notes of apple and cherry. The Fernet gave it a nice familiar kick at the finish (I have a hunch that our barkeep used more than two bar spoons in mine.) Serving it chilled mellowed the strong flavors out nicely.
 Cocktail by Varnish. D√©colletage by Ms. J.

Passing the Newark around the table garnered these responses:

  • "Sort of Christmassy, but in a good way."

  • "It's like an all-spice flavor in there."

  • "It tastes like cold spiced apple cider, with saffron and lots of booze."

  • "Don't know if I could finish it, but it's good."
Obviously, I finished it and would give it my highest recommendation. The next time I'm at Bourbon and Branch I'll be sure to see if they can do a Newark that measures up.

Filed under: Places you can get Fernet, Fernet cocktails, LA is sorta OK sometimes, Los Angeles, these are a few of my favorite things, Luckily it didn't taste like New Jersey


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