Coffee, Fernet Branca, Rum: Whynatte?

Whynatte Cayrum Fernet Branca

Why the hell would anyone want to mix a latte energy drink, Fernet-Branca, and ginger-honey infused rum? The answer lies somewhere at the center of the Venn diagram where hipster bartenders, tweaked-out party twenty somethings, and laid-back Dominicanos converge. And if you read that and think there’s no way that Venn diagram actually exists in the real world, well… you might be right. But I’m hopeful that somewhere down a dark alley not far from the beach in Punta Cana, there’s a mustachioed mixologist with a PDT Cocktail Book¬†on the shelf, a fridge full of Whynatte, an old uncle home-infusing ginger-honey rum, and a raging dance floor nearby. It could happen, right?

The truth is, this drink was inspired by a random confluence of events. I was talking with Jesse Altman, founder of Whynatte, for a profile in Creative Loafing (that came out this week – check it out).¬†For those of you not familiar with Atlanta-based Whynatte, it’s basically a canned latte energy drink that was built for mixing – with things like J√§germeister,¬† Fireball whiskey, and, um, whipped cream vodka. As I said in Creative Loafing, ¬†Whynatte is “decidedly not the stuff you find at reverent temples to cocktail classicism. In fact, it’s tremendously popular at places like Smith’s Olde Bar and the Vortex, and even the Cheetah. Why not?”

In any case, Jesse and I were talking about how Whynatte just doesn’t fit behind certain bars, and I asked if anyone had paired it with something super-bartender-nerdy like… Fernet-Branca. After all, Fernet fits somewhere on the same branch of the spirits tree as J√§germeister –¬†embraced both for its purported medicinal qualities and definitive medicinal taste.¬†The key difference for Fernet-Branca is that it dials way back on the sugary syrup of J√§germeister.¬†Altman said they had once tried a push to get some serious bartenders to get creative with Whynatte, but it was the simple shooters that really seemed to click best.

After our chat, I just couldn’t let go of this seemingly incongruous pairing – between the whipped cream vodka loving party animal and the hipster bar geek. I did a bit of digging around for other similar drinks, which mainly reinforced that Fernet-Branca and (hot)¬†coffee or espresso are frequent companions. So maybe this pairing wasn’t so crazy after all.

I tried simple first – just two ingredients – and landed on 2oz Whynatte and 1oz Fernet-Branca over ice. It makes for a bracingly refreshing cold coffee drink. Then I tried adding in rye, figuring bourbon might be too sweet, and found a nice balance at 2oz Whynatte, 2oz rye, 1oz Fernet-Branca. You still get the herbal punch of the Fernet, the creamy coffee flavors still coat the tongue, and the rye somehow manages to bridge the two with a potent whiskey presence. Not bad.

Doing some further digging, I came across a cocktail recipe that got me thinking that rum could be a good companion. I started rifling through my rum options for inspiration. An unaged rum proved too sharp. An older rum seemed a bit, well, wasted in such a concoction. A spiced rum proved too… much. And then I tried a bottle of Cayrum that I had been given not long ago.

Cayrum, from the¬†Kane Family Rum Company,¬†also happens to be based in Atlanta, though the rum is distilled, aged (three years in bourbon barrels) and infused with local honey and ginger in the Dominican Republic. The ginger really pops in this stuff – it could almost replace a ginger liqueur like Domaine de Canton or the King’s Ginger in cocktail recipes. But it’s the honey (at least, I think it is) that helps bring the Cayrum into harmony with the latte and the Fernet-Branca when you mix those ingredients together.

This is not a drink for everyone. Or maybe I should say, this is a drink for hardly anyone. There’s a 2 in 3 chance that you’ll find it disgusting. And a 0.9 in 3 chance that you’ll find it only mildly offensive. But I like this drink – it manages to be creamy, sweet, bitter, bracing, and spicy in some strange jumble of proportions. The ratio I settled on was 1 part Whynatte to 1 part Cayrum to 1/2 part Fernet-Branca. If you want something more coffee-like and less cocktail-ish, just amp up the Whynatte. If you find the medicinal slap of Fernet offensive, definitely dial back the Fernet-Branca. Me? I’m happy imagining my place at the bar by the beach, chatting with a mustachioed bartender while a nearby throng of partygoers dances the night away.

The Dominicano Hipster All Night Rave
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
2oz Cayrum honey and ginger infused rum
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Mustachioed Rye-natte
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz rye whiskey
1oz Fernet Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Why Not Fernet
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

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