British Bartenders compete in the home of Fernet Branca

29th April 2016

London bartender Jonas Stern has won a place in the prestigious Fernet Branca Secret Society, along with a £1,000 prize, after being put through his paces in a cocktail competition held at the Fratelli Branca Distillerie in Milan, home of classic Italian liqueur.

Six of the UK’s top cocktail mixologists were flown to Italy to compete in the final by Fernet Branca’s UK distributor Hi-Spirits. Against strong competition, the judging panel picked Jonas’ cocktail creation, the ‘Yellow Crocodile’, as the winner.

Jonas, assistant bar manager at Pollen Street Social, London, was presented with his £1,000 prize by Count Nicola Branca, whose ancestor Bernardino Branca created Fernet Branca in 1845.  Count Branca also inducted Jonas into the Fernet Branca Secret Society, an exclusive drinks industry group which celebrates the heritage and versatility of the liqueur.

In a hard-fought competition decided by a panel of international judges led by Fernet Branca global brand ambassador Nicola Olianas, each finalist made a cocktail of their own creation, which had to include a minimum of 20ml of Fernet Branca. Second place went to the ’18.45’ created by Ehren Khoo Steel of Mojo, Leeds, and third to the ‘Veni, Vidi, Bibi’ by Kyle Hamilton from Panda and Sons, Edinburgh.

Jonas Stern said: "It was great to compete with five of the best bartenders in the UK, all showing such great passion for Fernet Branca. To come out on top was amazing, especially since we competed at the home of the brand in Milan with Count Branca himself present. Being part of the Secret Society now is a great honour and responsibility, as Fernet Branca is rooted so deeply in history and so well respected throughout the world." 

Nicola Olianas said: “The passion and dedication of the bartenders I met during the competition was inspiring. They showed knowledge and deep understanding of Fernet Branca as a classic drink as well as an ingredient, and of Branca as a family as well a company. That is at the heart of our approach and makes them part of the family!”

The other finalists were Mark Delaney, Filter and Fox, Liverpool; Isaac Windsor, Milk Thistle, Bristol; and Johny Hume, Bonbar, Newcastle. Along with the competition at the Fratelli Branca Distillerie, the trip also included a visit to the Antiche distillery in Venice, where Antica Sambuca is made, and the Lazzaroni Amaretto distillery in Milan. 

First place: The Yellow Crocodile by Jonas Stern of Pollen Street Social, London

·     30ml Fernet Branca

·     15ml London dry gin

·     15ml saffron syrup

·     10ml sweet vinegar

·     10ml chinotto quaglia

Shaken, crusta of saffron powder sugar on a champagne glass, garnished with lemon peel.


Second place: the 18.45 by Ehren Khoo Steel of Mojo, Leeds

·     25ml Fernet Branca

·     35ml Wild Beer Millionaire (salted caramel and chocolate milk stout)

·     20ml Lapsang Souchong syrup

·     1 egg yolk

·     5 dash of Absinthe

·     2 dash Walnut bitters

·     Small pinch of salt

Shake all with ice, double strain in to chilled coupette, garnish with a star anise.


Third place: Veni, Vidi, Bibi by Kyle Hamilton, Panda and Sons, Edinburgh

·     50ml sweet vermouth

·     25ml Fernet Branca

·     7.5ml Kummel

Stirred down. Served up in a tulip glass. Spray of lemon oil

Invented in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca, Fernet Branca is a digestif amaro liqueur with a distinctive bitter flavour, and is still made to the closely-guarded original recipe. For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Pictured: The British bartender finalists at the Fernet Branca cocktail competition in Milan; left to right: Kyle Hamilton, Isaac Windsor, Jonas Stern, Mark Delaney, Ehren Khoo Steel, (seated at front) Johny Hume.


« Back to News

Back To Fixtures