Whisper in the Dark Cocktail

Today’s cocktail is inspired by this month’s Cook the Books Club pick, Cooking with Fernet-Branca.  I originally thought this was the August book, so I ordered by copy and read it poolside while I tanned and the kids swam…ah summer, it’s my favorite season and I miss it so!

Anyway, I was thoroughly prepared to hate the books, and then pleasantly surprised when I actually enjoyed it!  Here’s my GoodRead review:

Cooking with Fernet BrancaCooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anytime a book claims to be "hilarious", I roll my eyes and prepare for the worst. Imagine my surprise when this one actually was funny. I even chuckled...out loud!

Overall, the book is rather ridiculous, silly and very satirical...and funny. Gerald gag-inducing recipes are made hilarious by his misplaced confidence. And while the situations Gerald got himself into made me mentally facepalm, it was done in a way that was silly instead of cringy.

View all my reviews

I actually enjoyed it enough that I bought the sequel, but could only slog my way through the first few chapters of the sequel before I threw in the towel (honestly, that’s how I thought the first would be…maybe I need to be laying by the pool in 95 degrees heat to enjoy these?). Here's my review of that one if you're so inclined.

Anyway, I learned in the book that Fernet-Branca is booze.  Given how it was consumed in the book, I assumed it was a kind of wine or mead.  


It is, in fact, a hard liquor that is considered bitters and has an interesting history.  In some circles it is considered “medicinal”, especially during prohibition when pharmacies were able to order Fernet-Branca.  Eventually, Fernet and Coke became a popular drink in some parts of the US and especially Argentina.   

I first tried a small sip of Fernet-Branca straight (since that’s how it was enjoyed in the book) and wowsa, that’ll put some hair on your chest!  No thank you from me.

Next I went for the Fernet & Cola since I always have Coke in the house and it’s easy.  It was pretty disgusting.  I muscled through the 50/50 mixture (ew) and don’t plan to repeat it (see how small I made it? I was justifiably skeptical).

Finally I found the Whisper in the Dark and this one was a winner.  In fact, it went down way too smoothly and it’s probably a good thing I used up the last of my Irish Cream making this one in the photo! Ha!

The bitterness of the espresso is just what the drink needed to tame down the bitterness of the Fernet-Branca, while mint brought out the surprising mintiness of the spirit.  Finally, the sweetness from the Irish Cream and simple syrup were the perfect finishing touch.

Recipe Note:

To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Cool and place in a lidded jar and refrigerate until ready to use  

Whisper in the Dark Cocktail

Recipe from Edible Rhody

8 fresh mint leaves

½ ounce simple syrup

2 ounces Irish Cream

½ ounce Fernet-Branca

1 ½ ounces freshly brewed espresso


Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup.  Add the Irish cream and Fernet-Branca, stir to mix.  Add ice.  Top with the espresso and additional mint.  Serve immediately.  Make 1 cocktail.


  1. Love the cocktail. Wish I could have loved the novel. :(

  2. I am glad the book pleasantly surprised you and made you laugh. I am also glad you found the right combination for enjoying it. Nice photos! Thank you so much for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books :)


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