Alcohol Culture Drinks

The ‘Fernet Coin Challenge’ Forms A Secret Society Of Bartenders

Photo: Aaron Alvarado

Let me weave you a story of mystery, secrets, laughter and family. As many stories do, this one follows adventurers in search of treasure, though this is no tale of the high seas or deep jungles, but of a bar top, and the people on either side of it. You see, there is a bottle hidden among the luminous shelves of glass in that bar, and it is a bottle you have very likely ignored, not knowing the true weight of flavor and history each drop contains. More than just great taste though, this bottle helped spark what is possibly the biggest and most profound game you didn’t know existed; All you have to do is own a coin. But how to land your hands on this coveted currency, and how is the game played? All will be revealed, but first, let’s talk about that bottle and how this all came to be.

Fernet-Branca was created in 1845 in Milan, Italy. An amaro (Italian for “bitter”) by nature, the spirit is generally taken as a digestif, or Apéritif, generally consumed before or after a meal. Made from 27 herbs and 15 roots, with the exact recipe being known only to a very select few worldwide, the combination is then aged for 12 to 15 months in 20,000-liter barrels underneath the distillery in Milan. Argentina is the largest consumer of the product, to the extent that Fernet-Branca has its own distillery in the country, but every other bottle worldwide comes from Milan. The spirit was first brought to America’s shores in the early 1900s, landing in both New York and San Francisco, and due to its complex nature and bitter flavor notes, was sold medicinally, thus avoiding the sightlines of prohibition. This meant American’s could purchase Fernet in 375ml from any drug store, and be able to imbibe upon returning home legally.

The spirit has always had its place in the bar, as bartenders understood its quality, and bringing to their bars post-prohibition as American’s had developed a taste for Fernet-Branca. It’s herbal elements truly do have beneficial results, much the same other bitters and medical products of the age were used to sooth the stomach and body. It is therefore not uncommon to see bartenders take a shot of Fernet-Branca before a shift starts, to calm the nerves before the tickets start skipping from the printer. These physical benefits, paired with the allure of its prohibition history, lead to the product becoming widely adored by those in the know.

As consumer trends changed in the latter half of the ’80s and ’90s, American’s palates shifted away from spirits like Fernet, but now, thankfully, that is changing. Should you go into a bar, and ask for a shot of Fernet, it is almost a guarantee that you will be asked what bar or restaurant you work at, hence why it is known as “the bartender’s handshake.” However, if you see someone go into a bar, order Fernet, then present a large coin to the bartender, that is something else entirely, because that my friends, is the great game, but where did it come from?

In World War I, Americans flocked overseas to fill spots in flying squadrons in Europe. In one such unit, a wealthy commander ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his men. One of these pilots was shot down behind enemy lines, though eventually escaped, but without any personal effects as German’s had confiscated it all, save for a small leather pouch around his neck. Eventually falling into a French section of what was known as “No Man’s Land,” the pilot needed to prove he was no saboteur, so presenting the coin, a French officer recognized the insignia of his squadron. From here, the tradition in the squadron became to always carry your coin on your person, which inevitably led to the creation of a challenge. A challenger would ask to see the coin, and, if the challenged individual could not produce a coin, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the challenger. If a coin was produced, then the challenging member was forced to pay for the drink. This tradition has been carried on in many forms since, but several years ago, Fernet-Branca brought this numismatic celebration in-house.

Troy Kragerud was the Vegas marketing manager for Infinium Spirits, and he, with his brother Bret (who still manufactures the Fernet-Branca coins to this day) developed the concept of introducing challenge coins, specifically for Fernet, into the bartending and spirits world. The military hugely influenced both, and so, several years ago, they launched the coins. Each state only gets around 100 to 125 coins a year, with the only other coins coming by way of major events or gatherings — such as Tales of the Cocktail. Coins are presented to those deemed worthy, traded for, and can be won by bartenders at events, or handed down from other industry professionals. Selling a coin is deemed a terrible offense, with punishment being no more coins for the offender. Every set is different in their face designs, making their collectability extremely high and valued. The rules for the challenge game (the official rules list can be found at the bottom of this article) are essentially the same as in WWI; present a coin, and if the person can’t present theirs, you get a free Fernet-Branca.

So what makes the game so special and Fernet so alluring to bar professionals? “There just is never a bad time for Fernet,” emphatically states Holly Tripp, bartender at The Blind Rabbit speakeasy in Anaheim. “I have been lucky to get a few coins, and the game aside, the coins and the whole Fernet brand make you feel like you are a part of this big club. It is this great sorority/fraternity of friends,” she finishes. She isn’t alone in her sentiment, as Fernet-Branca and its coins have their emotional hooks in industry professionals from all over, “They take you back to memories,” says Mariah Tatham, Former manager of 100 North Kitchen + Lounge in Fullerton (which happens to have Fernet on draft) and the staggeringly underrated Tribune, located inside 100 North. “You compare your coins from different events with friends, and even more than having them for the challenge, they just remind you of the amazing people in this industry and the times you’ve had with them.”

Official Rules

  1. Rules of the coin game must be given or explained to all new coin holders.
  2. The coin MUST be carried at all times. You can be challenged for it anywhere, at any time. You must produce the coin without taking more than four steps to produce it.
  3. When challenging, the challenger must state whether it is for a single drink or a round of drinks.
  4. Failure to produce a coin, for whatever reason, results in a bought round or single drinks (whatever the challenger stated). This type of transaction could be expensive, so hold onto your coin. Once the offender (coinless challengee) has bought the drink or round, they can’t be challenged again.
  5. If all that are challenged produce their coins, the challenger loses and must buy the drinks for all respondents. This too can be expensive, so challenge wisely.
  6. Under no circumstances can a coin be handed to another in response to a challenge. If a person gives their coin to another, that person can now keep the coin — it’s theirs! However, if a person places the coin down and another person picks it up to examine it, that is not considered giving and the examiner is honor-bound to place the coin back where they got it. The examiner can’t challenge while they hold another’s coin. After negotiating a “reasonable” ransom,” the examiner must return the member’s coin.
  7. If a coin is lost, replacement is up to the individual. A new coin should be acquired at the earliest opportunity — losing a coin and not replacing it doesn’t relieve a member of his or her responsibilities. This is especially true if you traditionally carry a coin.
  8. The coin should be controlled at all times. Giving a coin to just anyone is like opening a fraternity to just anyone. It is an honor to be given a coin, let’s keep it that way. A given or awarded coin is of more personal value than a purchased coin.
  9. No holes may be drilled in a coin.
  10. The above rules apply to anyone who is worthy to be given/awarded a coin, or who is known to be a previous coin holder.

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Article by Crawford McCarthy for Sauté Magazine. Read the original article here

Alcohol Brand News Toasty

Johnnie Walker Experiments with Three New Flavors for Blenders’ Batch

As whiskey of all kinds continues to become the spirit of choice for many, this has given distillers and blenders the opportunity to flex their creative muscles. So beyond crafting a beautiful brown spirit only known for its smoke or bite, many are now creating whiskies that can be easily paired with food.

Johnnie Walker recently launched three new whiskies: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Rum Cask Finish and Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast. They are the results of over 100 ongoing Scotch experiments by the brand’s small team of 12 expert blenders, and influenced by flavor cultures from around the world.

To celebrate their releases, the brand also launched a series of short films showcasing the blenders’ collaboration with taste innovators such as chef Edward Lee, barista James Hoffmann, sommelier André Mack, chef Jason Howard and some of the world’s most celebrated bartenders.

The films provide a behind-the-scenes look at some discussions on new taste combinations, with blenders Aimée Gibson and Chris Clark meeting flavor experts and lifting the lid on the whisky maker’s ongoing experimentations into flavor – all of which are carried out under the guidance of Master Blender Jim Beveridge at the brand’s home in Scotland.

“Our short films are a window into our endless quest for new taste experiences in Scotch,” says Beveridge. “Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch whiskies are the result of bold experiments that push the boundaries in flavor – just as Johnnie Walker Black Label did more than a century ago. Over time that experimental blend has gone on to become a true icon of Scotch all around the world.”

“We know how to make exceptional Scotch, we’ve been making it for years,” adds Gibson. “However, by opening our doors to some of the world’s foremost experts in food and drink, I feel we’ve been able to unlock new flavor and aroma combinations in our latest whiskies that are culturally relevant and that will excite new and seasoned whisky lovers.”

As part of the collaboration, chef and self-confessed whisky obsessive Edward Lee, alongside his fellow flavor experts, were challenged by Gibson and Clark to use their skills to further extend the possibilities of these new whiskies by developing original cocktails.

Using his gastronomic expertise and knowledge of whisky and wine, Chef Lee created the Blueberry Scotch cocktail using Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend. “Aimée’s knowledge of whisky made this a thrilling journey of discovery in flavor and aromas for me,” says Lee. “I learned that the blend I was challenged to play with was curated by Aimée following the outcome of an experiment in maturation with former wine casks set in motion by her mentor Jim Beveridge over ten years ago – now that’s dedication to your craft.”

For Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, Gibson experimented with whiskies distilled using barley roasted more heavily than ever before resulting in punchy notes of rich coffee and dark chocolate which have been brought to life in the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast Speciality cocktail, which features coffee liqueur, sweet vermouth and lemon zest.

The third blend to be released in the range, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Rum Cask Finish, was the culmination of blender Clark’s experimentation with whisky finished in casks which previously held Caribbean pot still rum. Chef Howard played with the whisky’s smooth and spicy flavors and believes it is best enjoyed in the Johnnie Walker Rum Cask Blend Steel Drum Cooler cocktail that uses pineapple juice and ginger root.

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend launched in selected countries this month and retails for $29.99. Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Rum Cask Finish and Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast will be available globally next month.

Celebrity Grub

Kendall Jenner Claps Back At NYC Bartender That Claims She Didn’t Tip

Update: Kendall obviously didn’t appreciate her good name being dragged around, so Monday afternoon, she addressed the tipping issue, saying that she tipped in cash. Kendall tweeted out, “Damn, I guess next time we won’t tip in cash,” but it’d be surprising if she returned at all after the way she was called out by the club. The bartender who first tweeted about the incident, Michael Burns, has since taken the accusatory tweet down.

Kendall Jenner is now 21-years-old and can finally buy herself alcoholic beverages, but the young millionaire allegedly committed a serious bar foul and was called out for it by the establishment.

The young Jenner sister was accused of not tipping the bartender at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, and the night club came with receipts, posting a photo to their Instagram account showing the lack of tip on Kendall’s $24 bill and captioning it, “Don’t forget to tip your bartender,” with a smiley face at the end for good measure.

The reason Jenner was in the building in the first place was for rapper A$AP Twelvyy’s listening party, along with Jenner’s friend A$AP Rocky, slated to perform that night.

The club took the image of Jenner’s receipt down, but not before everyone caught a glimpse and dragged Jenner through the mud:



This brings up the age old argument of when to tip, how much to tip, and if the tipping system is broken altogether.

No one’s ever technically required to tip their bartenders, but it’s a bit of a douchey move not to. The peeps behind the bar are trying their best to put together your crazy drink requests, at a reasonably quick rate, with a line full of people bombarding them. Bartenders do provide a bit of an extra service that you can’t just go to the grocery store for.

Either way, of all situations where tipping comes up, it’s in bad form not to tip your bartenders.

Kendall Jenner has been accused of a less-than-savory experience with wait staff before, as she was accused of trying to dine and dash, being chased down, then throwing a couple $20 bills at the server’s face in 2014.

Her and the staff should just settle this all with an ice cold Pepsi, and call for a truce.


Bartender Fights Off Drunk Dude But Gets Finger Bitten Clean Off [VIDEO]

You can always spot the guy at the bar who’s had way too much to drink for the night. He’s either aggressively hitting on every girl, yelling out random obscenities, trying to start fights, or all of the above.

This guy in San Francisco did the latter, as there’s new footage of him outside of a bar, running his mouth to one of the bartenders, before things got physical and said drunk dude bit off the barkeep’s finger.

According to SF Gate, the man was kicked out of the Silver Cloud Restaurant & Karaoke Bar July 17, but still tried to get in through a window. After failed attempts to re-enter the bar, the dude lost his shit, started kicking the door, and the bartender had had enough. The bartender then went out, tried to send the guy on his way, leading to a scuffle between the two.

In surveillance video provided by CBS SF Bay Area, you can see the guy ripping open the bartender’s button up shit and wrestling with him before leaving the frame. At some point after, he bit the barkeep’s finger off.

The attempt to re-attach his finger at the hospital was unsuccessful and the drunk guy is still at-large. Yup. No happy ending here. Just a fingerless bartender who’s job just got a whole lot harder, and a drunk asshole that nobody can find.


Tips On Making A Great Drink From World- Class Mixologist, Rob Floyd


To be served a drink by one of the world’s best mixologists means that you’re about to indulge in a perfection of craft. To share said drink with such a person means that you’re about to engage in some quality conversation.

Amidst a vibrant room soundtracked by clinking glasses and excited chatter, Rob Floyd, master mixologist-bartender, is letting this very scenario play out for me.  We’re both in Las Vegas — a city where you could say the drinks are flowing more than the money out of each casino patron’s wallets — and the energy of the scene is fueling our discussion.

The details of Floyd’s Vegas stay coincide with his involvement with Pepsi’s launch of a unique, sophisticated new beverage, “1893,” and Caesar’s Palace’s 50th anniversary. For the festivities, his expertise lent a hand to four exclusive cocktails in celebration of the occasion, adding to the enticement of the gala.

“Specifically, 1893 goes back in time and uses really simple ingredients. Now what I wanted to do for the cocktails for the festivities is that I wanted to give everybody a different flavor profile. First, I wanted to make it simple, so you can make it at home and have a great experience. Secondly, I wanted to have something for someone who loves spicy. Spice releases dopamine in the body. It gives you that natural pleasure, that rush.”

When it came to picking his brain about the good, the bad, and the ugly about cocktails and bartending, Floyd obliged and was scrupulous with his knowledge.

“Cocktails are binary — they’re either good or bad. And unfortunately, most of them are bad. So if you’re able to go back to the basics and make a great, simple cocktail, with bright colors and flavors to it, that’s something that somebody can make at home, you’ve really achieved something.”

Why do we love this? What makes us want to make this drink?

Such commentary about going back to the basics, was straightforward advice from the guru himself; albeit advice that I didn’t readily expect from the showman who’s been known to make some otherworldly concoctions.

“I can make a great cocktail — so what. What is that ‘why’? Why do we love this? What makes us want to make this drink?”

So a great drink needs to be simple, have good character, and include an interesting story behind it? Noted. I mean I do remember that one time I named one of my own half-baked home concoctions, “100 MPH,” in honor of the exact speed I got slapped with a ticket for that morning. It was a hit with my party guests.

Floyd continued, “Reaching someone, empowering them, that’s something that drives me everyday.”

And that mindset is a reason why he had linked up with Pepsi and Caesar’s Palace in the first place. Using both brands’ significant reach, he was now able to influence more of the everyday individuals who endeavor to learn the art of mixology.

For the many wondering what a master mixologist’s go-to drink would be at the bar, or what he’d have in his collection, Floyd divulges, “At home I usually have either a great rye, a great bourbon — I usually go a little dark — or I’ll go with a mezcal. I’ve been into mezcals lately, they’re dynamic and fun.”

Feature image: Jessica Zollman

This 21-Year-Old Swedish Bartender Is Proof Jack Dawson Survived The Titanic



A younger version of Leonardo DiCaprio in Linköping, Sweden has surfaced to set the internet on fire.

Discovered by Swedish website, Konrad Annerud is a nightclub bartender who seriously needs to rethink his profession and consider becoming DiCaprio’s film double.

The resemblance between the 21-year-old Swede and the 40-year-old movie icon is borderline identical.

“I get to hear that I look like him quite often, especially since I work as a bartender in a nightclub. But it’s fun to be like him, he’s handsome,” Annerud said.

Annerud now has 60,000 followers on Instagram and continues to grow in fame as people constantly ask the DiCaprio doppelganger for pictures.

Annerud said that looking like DiCaprio is sometimes not such a good thing.

“When I was in Italy this summer, I almost felt like shaving my hair off. It was very chaotic; people were yelling ‘Leo’ and wanted to take photos with me all the time. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced.







Written by Riley Schatzle of NextShark

Celebrity Grub

Amanda Bynes Wants To Be a Bartender Because She Needs the Money


Amanda Bynes has a plan to get back to her “normal life,” and it’s by dolling out Fireball shots at the bar.

Sources close to her tell TMZ that she’s really interested in “a normal life” and believes employment at a bar would help her reach that goal.

“Wait, isn’t Amanda Bynes rich from all that residual All That Nickelodeon money? Why is she trying to work in a bar?” you must be asking yourself.

Your questions are valid, she does indeed have that buku money, in fact her fortune is valued at $5.7 million. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t have access to that money due to her conservatorship and she only receives $50 – $100 day, when her parents are feeling generous.

I wonder what bar she plans to work at? Anyone reading have any openings?



The Keurig of Booze Has Arrived: A Personal, Robotic Bartender Named ‘Monsieur’


If you’ve ever fancied coming home to find a robotic bartender waiting for you with a stiff drink, this could be the answer to your prayers.

Last week, the four-person company Monsieur moved towards selling a home version of its automated bartender — a small contraption that mixes drinks for you and is able to learn your moods, needs and preferences to make sure it always serves you the right drink, at the right time, no matter how discerning your tastes.


The baby brother of a much larger, industrial machine that can be found in a number of establishments in Atlanta (where the company hails from), the Monsieur can mix thousands of drinks and features a touchscreen menu of everything it has to offer. It also comes complete with themes such as Cinco de Mayo and serves the appropriate drinks to go along with such as margaritas or mojitos. Users can increase or reduce the strength of any desired drink or even ask for a non-alcoholic version. Or, for the more adventurous, there’s always the “surprise me” button. The more the machine is used, the better it becomes at understanding its owners’ tastes and preferences.

However, this wouldn’t be a truly ‘smart’ gadget if it didn’t come complete with an app, and the Monsieur is no exception. The app can be used to remotely order and mix a drink while you’re not at home and the machine can use the app to know when you’re coming home and what sort of drink it should have ready for your return. Even cooler, or creepier (whichever way you choose to look at it), the Monsieur connects to your Wi-Fi network and can recognize when you come home based on your mobile joining the network. He can also ascertain if you’ve got company based on how many people join the network when you arrive home and make enough drinks to satisfy your guests. Crazy stuff.

Like all good barmen, it will know when to stop serving its obliterated clientele. It can monitor blood alcohol levels and can even call a cab if it deems this necessary.


This beauty is going to cost you. Monsieur Mini, with a four-liquid container capacity, is $1,499, while the eight-container machine, is $2,699. But by all means, if you’ve got $1,500 bucks lying around, go for it.

The company has turned to Kickstarter to bring the device not only into the home, but into bars, clubs and hotel lobbies around the world and is looking to raise $100,000 USD towards further development and manufacturing costs so it can build and ship out its first batch.

H/T Mashable + PicThx Monsieur