I don't need an excuse to drink my way through the cocktails at Del Campo: The South American menu by bartender J.P. Caceres is easily one of the best in D.C. at the moment, but on a warm, sunny day, I can't stop thinking about his Fernet con Cola. The combination of minty, herbal Fernet Branca and Coca-Cola is a staple in Argentina. Here in America, you're hard-pressed to find Fernet outside trendy cocktail bars.
Caceres soaks Madagascar vanilla beans in a bottle of Fernet for three or four days, which lends a creamy smoothness to the flavor. He adds Coke syrup, distilled water and a little bit of Madagascar vanilla bean syrup before carbonating and bottling the cocktail, which sells for $12.
It's served over a giant rock of ice, and because the bottles are 6.3 ounces, there's a little left over when the glass is full; that moment when you get to pour a wee bit more into your glass is always a smile-inducer. "I wanted to do something special" with the Buenos Aires specialty, Caceres said. He has certainly succeeded.
As a bonus, here's a funky song about the pleasures of drinking Fernet and Coca-Cola, courtesy of the Argentine rock band Vilma Palma e Vampiros: