I’ve done quite well at not boring “the crap out of you” about this “kickball tourney” as Ben suggested I would, haven’t I? I’ve not done quite so well at keeping those who do have some interest “entertained” though. So, without going too far off the topic of drinks (I don’t think…) I bring to you: The World Cup Final of Digestifs!!!
There is some logic to this, I promise.
Argentina, you see, have reached the World Cup final for the first time since Italia ’90 (which is quite apt, as you’ll see in a sec) so Sunday’s match is going to be quite the event for La Albiceleste. And no Argentinian event is complete without fernet!
Now, if you’re thinking “but that’s an Italian digestif (or digestivo)”, you’d be correct, but no other country in the world gets through as much fernet (especially Fernet-Branca) as Argentina. (This has, in fact, led to Fernet-Branca also being produced in Argentina, the only country outside of Italy where this happens.) Fernet con coca (Fernet and coke) is considered the Argentinian national drink, and it even inspired its own naff pop song as performed by the brilliantly named Vilma Palma e Vampiros…
Yep, fernet – a type of Italian amaro – that’s their drink alright. (Especially in the Buenos Aires and Córdoba provinces.)
And the final looks to be quite the celebration. After all, Argentina have the single greatest footballer on the planet in their team in Lionel Messi. The only problem with that is, they’re playing possibly the best team in the world. If you’re expecting me to say the hosts Brazil at this point and then go on to talk about some exotic drinks, cachaça and the ubiquitous World Cup Caipirinha* then you haven’t been watching the news. Simply put, this happened on Tuesday night:
(If you’re looking at the image above on your phone and it’s not moving, it is actually a gif)
Germany well and truly crushed the Brazilians (1-7!) to book their place in this year’s World Cup final. They don’t just enjoy big, wieldable glasses and steins of excellent German beer though. No, there’s also schnaps, for example, and indeed Kräuterlikör, and in amongst all of that is one of the world’s greatest digestifs: Underberg!
So what we have in fact – for our final – is a showdown not just between two nation’s digestifs (simply meaning any after dinner drink under the guise of aiding digestion), but a head to head between two iconic digestive bitters! The point of these drinks, of course, is to make you feel as light as a feather even though you’ve just forced a gluttonous feast down your pie hole. If you’ve never tried either before though, you may be in for a shock, as they can be something akin to a smack in the face. Your poor smacked face may then immediately begin to pull ‘the Fernet face’, as expertly demonstrated below by @InWithbacchus (I really wish I could show you Sam Smith’s face the first time he tried Underberg!):
Both Fernet and Underberg are also well-loved and trusted ‘remedies’ (without using the four letter “c” word) to ‘symptoms suffered after a heavy night’, as well as those associated with a heavy stomach. This may go some way to explain their popularity within the drinks trade… Time to weigh up these behemoths of bitterness though, which would you have in your glass?
Fernet or Underberg?
|Classification||Bitter Italian amaro||Rheinberg herbal digestive.|
|Bottle Size||70cl (or 100cl in some places)||Single-portion 2cl bottles (available in packs).|
|‘erbs?||A super secret formula of 27 herbs from 5 different continents!||Herbs from 43 countries! It’s a veritable World Cup in a glass!|
|Anything else?||13+ flowers, roots and spices including gentian and saffron.||Natural flavours from the genus gentiana.|
|Who is your Daddy?||Bernandino Branca, 1845 (or was it Maria Scala?)||Hubert Undenberg, 1846|
|Aged?||For at least a year in oak barrels.||For several months in Slovenian oak barrels.|
|Tagline||“Excellence knows no oceans, no frontiers.”||“In the service of wellbeing, around the world.”|
|Good for you?||According to the fictional Dr Fernet Svedse, yes, it will cure anything. As long as you don’t mean, like, actually.||A study by Medical Consult in 2005 suggests there is proof of Underberg’s stimulatory effect on the digestive system.|
|Cocktails?||A dash or two can be magic – see the Hanky Panky. Drinks with more (up to 50:50!) can be… challenging.||Erm… No, not really. Just down the hatch with it.|
|Who drinks this stuff???||What, neat?! People in Italy, some people in Argentina, the Soprano family, Alfred off of Batm’n, San Franciscan bartenders…||Germans and an ever-increasing following worldwide, many collecting the tops to send off for their Underberg trucks or else ordering Batm’n-like utility belts (no, really).|
Who wins? For me, it’s the Underberg. Awesome stuff. But many of you will have your own opinions. Perhaps we should make two teams of 11 fight it out once and for all this Sunday through the honourable (stop sniggering at the back there) pursuit of association football. Germany vs Argentina. May the best digestif win!
“Every fine evening, I’d sit there and order a Fernet Branca.”
Alfred enjoys sipping a glass of Fernet Branca, once described by Ben as “Not right. Just not right.”
* For what it’s worth, I have pretty much got these down now – carefully (with a sharp knife) chop a key lime in half and cut out the stringy bit at the core, then chop each half into a geometrically sensible number of smallish pieces (not something considered in many recipes) like 6, muddle with 2 tbsp sugar (not particularly heaped, 3 is too many) in the tumbler you’re serving in (I think in this case specifically, this is all worth doing and I’ve had no problems with sugar not dissolving), add at least 50ml cachaça (do yourself a favour here and avoid ‘clean’ ones, you want something rustic, funky and flavoursome or what’s the bloody point? I’ve found Pitú to be an affordable option that works), stir, add a little ice, stir again briefly, add a little more ice and sort of fold it all so that the lime chunks are fairly evenly spread throughout. Done. What? Couldn’t actually not do World Cup Caipirinhas, could I?