In 1845, herbalist Bernardino Branca was trying to treat cholera in Milan, Italy. He concocted what may be the first fernet — an Italian type of amaro, or bitter herbal liqueur — using 27 herbs, roots, and spices.
Little did he know, his recipe would remain intact for nearly two centuries and lead to the popular amaro Fernet-Branca.
"Fernet-Branca was born more as a medicine and not as a spirit," sixth-generation heir Edoardo Branca tells CNBC. Today, the bitter is universally popular in Argentina and gaining popularity in the US, particularly in San Francisco, where it was sold legally during Prohibition because of its medicinal properties.
"In the United States, we were the only spirit that was still sold in pharmacies because we were sold as a cough syrup," says Branca, who recently moved from Italy to San Francisco to help expand the family brand. "When Prohibition finished, I think my great-grandfather was one of the only people that was really, really sad about it because we were the only spirit in the United States without having any competitor."