Imbibe magazine describes Fernet-Branca as "an alpha-dog amaro, powerfully laced with pungent botanicals." I tend to see it has a hard, midcoitus slap to the face. It just hurts so good. It's been described as Listerine that tastes like licorice.
First made in Italy in the 19th century, Fernet-Branca is considered an Italian amaro, which also includes Campari, Averna and Aperol. Meant to be drunk after meals when you may have overindulged, the drink is a becoming a service industry insiders' shot of choice. In San Francisco — where along with Argentina its popularity is widespread — it's referred to as "a bartenders' handshake." Fellow barmen acknowledge each other with a Fernet shot and a ginger ale chaser.
Locally, mixologists and some chefs long have used the 90-proof Fernet as a powerful addition to cocktails and meals.
If the groundswell I've been seeing within the industry is any indication, we might be seeing Fernet quaffed, with a grimace, a lot more often in Richmond. We bartenders tend to be a sadomasochistic lot.