Pure happenstance. I swear to you. These things aren’t planned in advance. It’s a complete coincidence that I’m highlighting a cocktail called the Toronto right as the mayor of that metropolis apparently turns up in a video speaking way, way, WAY off the record while smoking crack cocaine. We all of us have our vices.
The Toronto is another drink exploiting the peculiar charms of Fernet Branca. For more on Fernet’s history and its idiosyncratic scent and taste, please to consult last week’s post on the Hanky Panky. Further Fernet factoids:
I was desperately hoping there would be a spike in sales of this abrasive amaro following its cameo appearance in The Dark Knight Rises as Alfred’s aperitif of choice. Presumably Bruce Wayne also drinks it; that would account for the Batman voice.
Costume designer Edith Head, of whom Rosemarie and I are inordinately fond, was introduced to Fernet by the English actress Madeleine Carroll. Edith’s take on the Italian liqueur? It’s “guaranteed to save you on the day you want to kill yourself.”
My favorite, oft-repeated Fernet story took place in 1960. Betsy von Furstenberg, the actress born a baroness, was suspended from Actors’ Equity because of a prank she played on her co-star Tony Randall. She playfully poured Fernet into the glass Randall had to drink from onstage. Randall took one sip – and immediately assumed he had been poisoned.
Knowing that, you’re even more keen to use some in a cocktail, right?
There’s no mistaking Fernet’s presence in a glass, but for all its assertive flavor it complements the base spirit it’s paired with. While it adds a playful edge to gin in the Hanky Panky, in the Toronto – or the T’ronta, as I’ve heard locals pronounce it – it lights a fire under the rye. Strange how a taste so distinctive can be so versatile.
2 oz. rye
¼ oz. Fernet Branca
¼ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Stir. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist.