For the uninitiated, Fernet is an Italian liquor that has so many secret herbs and spices, it would be exhausting trying to list them all. Many would describe it as a "mouthwashy" taste...and I would argue that most people hate it the first time they try it. (Ok, maybe the first five times....check out funny gifs on the experience here, or here.)
It's popular in Italy, Argentina, and...San Francisco. Go figure. In fact, 50% of the Fernet consumed in the U.S. each day is consumed in San Francisco. It actually has a really cool history in this city, dating back to the Prohibition days. I highly suggest checking out this article from SF Weekly a few years back. And while I too was among those who didn't like the taste initially, I've come to love and embrace Fernet, and it's one of my go-to drinks nowadays.
A popular way to order the digestif is with a "ginger back"...as in a chaser of ginger ale. Some people say this only for rookies, but I happen to enjoy the way the ginger ale compliments the liqueur. In fact, one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Park Tavern, came up with a creative twist on this by making it into a tasty dessert. They serve a boozy float that includes Fernet ice cream, a shot of Fernet, and some Ginger Beer. I was inspired to come up with my own Fernet-inspired dessert, so I decided to do Fernet ice cream with a ginger syrup topping and candied ginger garnish.
Of course, you'l need some fresh ginger. I used about 1/4 of a pound, which equalled almost 3/4 cup when sliced. First peel it (yes, I own a ginger peeler...thank you Devon), slice it really thin, and combine it with a cup of sugar and one cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
Strain and allow mixture to cool. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or other airtight container and store in the refrigerator. I decided to also make some candied ginger to use as a garnish (or for yummy snacks). Spread cooked ginger slices out on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to dry completely. (*Note: You can also use the ginger syrup to make homemade ginger ale by combining with soda water and a little lime juice!)
I wanted a little vanilla flavor in my ice cream to go with the Fernet, so I used one whole vanilla bean. Slice it open and scrape out the insides into a small saucepan with the milk, half of the cream, sugar and pinch of salt. Then go ahead and toss the rest of the bean pod in with the mixture. Heat on medium low until hot but not boiling. (*Note...you could also sub with a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, or omit altogether.)
As I did with the Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Rosemary Ice Cream awhile back, I wanted to do a custard base to achieve maximum creaminess. To do this, you'll need about 5 egg yolks. You'll also need to "temper" the eggs so they don't scramble. To do this, mix a little bit of the warm milk mixture into your whisked egg yolks. I do this little by little (ending up adding about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup total), and then whisk the egg mixture back into the pan.
Continue cooking over low heat, while constantly stirring, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla bean. (Tip: You can rinse the bean and dry it along with the ginger, and store in your sugar container!)
In the meantime, prepare an ice bath and set a container inside with the remainder of the cream. (I also added about a tablespoon of the ginger syrup just for fun :)) Once the custard has finished, pour it into the chilled cream and continue stirring until mixture has cooled down significantly.
At this point, add 2 tablespoons of Fernet-Branca. No, I know it doesn't sound like a lot, and I considered adding more but was afraid the ice cream wouldn't freeze properly. Add more if you'd like, but don't say I didn't warn you! Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.
When you are ready to make your ice cream, simply freeze according to your manufacturer's instructions. If you prefer soft-serve consistency, eat right away...otherwise, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for a couple more hours.
When you're ready to serve it...garnish with a sprig of mint and a couple slices of candied ginger. Drizzle with ginger syrup!
The result? A delicious dessert for Fernet-lovers and Fernet-haters alike! No seriously...I even tested it out on my friend Amy, who isn't exactly a Fernet fan. The taste is super subtle (maybe even too subtle for some), and I think the creaminess of the ice cream really balances out the strong medicinal taste of the alcohol. Either way...this was a hit and I'll definitely be making it again. Salute!
I also wanted to let everyone know that I will be taking another hiatus from the blog for a few weeks. I'm ecstatic to report I'm headed to Australia for some much needed vacation and to attend the wedding of my dear friend Jenna (who, coincidentally, was my dinner companion during my first visit to Park Tavern). Not to worry, I promise to document my adventures (and my food) thoroughly and post some of the highlights here on the blog. Have a great two weeks everyone!
Fernet-Branca Ice Cream with Ginger Syrup
Keywords: dessert Fernet-Branca Ice Cream ginger
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- pinch of sea salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons Fernet-Branca
- 1 tablespoon ginger syrup (see below)
- 1/4 pound fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
InstructionsFor the ice cream:
- Combine 1 cup of the cream, milk, sugar, salt in a small sauce pan. Split vanilla bean down the middle and scrape insides into cream mixture. Place vanilla bean pod in pan as well and heat until very warm, but not boiling.
- Prepare an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Place a smaller bowl inside and pour in other cup of cream.
- To make the custard, whisk egg yolks in a separate bowl and add about a 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture into the eggs while continually whisking. This will help "temper" them so they don't scramble. Return egg mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove bean pod and strain custard into chilled bowl with the cream. Stir in Fernet and ginger syrup. Stir until mixture has cooled down considerably. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
- Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Enjoy immediately if you prefer a "soft serve" consistency, or freeze for an additional couple hours for more traditional ice cream consistency. Drizzle with ginger syrup and garnish with a few pieces of candied ginger.
For the syrup and candied ginger:
- Combine sliced ginger with a cup of sugar and one cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
- Strain and allow mixture to cool. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or other airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
- Spread cooked ginger slices out on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to dry completely.
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