What is the best kind of publicity? The kind that comes your way without your even trying.
It was shortly after the release of “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) — the final installment in “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman’s beginnings and “ending” — that Edoardo Branca’s phone rang at 5 a.m. It was the first of a series of well-wishers congratulating him on his good fortune.Branca’s family helms a company that makes Fernet-Branca, a historic bitter that Batman’s butler Alfred imagines himself sipping in a Florentine café. Friends teased Edoardo: How much did he pay for that sterling product placement?
Absolutely nothing. “It was just a beautiful thing that happened.”
Beautiful things have a way of happening to Fratelli Branca, the 174-year-old Milanese company that produces a variety of wines and spirits, including Fernet-Branca, a spicy, potent bitter; the vermouths Antica Formula, Carpano and Punt e Mes; the espresso liqueur Caffè Borghetti; and, coming to the United States this October, the brandy Stravecchio Branca.
We had a chance to sample a refreshing Carpano Bianco Spritz with grapefruit soda at the new Branca Bar at Greenwich Polo Club. There was also Fernet Buck, a cocktail made with Fernet and ginger beer.
“Ginger beer and Fernet-Branca go very well together, though I would recommend this at 4 or 5 o’clock,” says Edoardo, managing director of the new Branca USA. “Otherwise, it’s a little bit early — although for Argentines, it’s always time for Fernet-Branca.” (The global brand is produced outside Buenos Aires as well as in Milan.)
For Argentines, it’s also always time for polo. “I watch polo a lot,” Edoardo says. “I really like it. It’s a relaxing game you can enjoy with the whole family.”
Because Fratelli Branca “always wants to give back in whatever city we’re in,” there is a free tasting Branca Bar at Greenwich Polo Club in celebration of the company’s return to New York. “We used to produce Fernet-Branca, which is made with 27 herbs and spices in Tribeca,” he says. That stopped after 9/11. Now with the new Branca USA, Branca and his wife and daughter are house-hunting in New York.
The affable Branca, who has a real passion for the family’s products, is the sixth generation to work in a business that began in 1845 when Bernardino Branca created Fernet-Branca as a medicine to stimulate the appetite of cholera patients in his native Milan. It became a liquor in the U.S. in the late 19th century and around the world after 1934, Edoardo adds.
His father, Niccolò, serves as president of Fratelli Branca. But although Fernet-Branca would seem to be in his blood, Edoardo didn’t start out with the company. Raised in Milan and Florence — his grandmother, mother and wife are all Florentine — he studied at the European Business School in London and went into banking. It is, Edoardo says, “a less fun world” than that of Fratelli Branca. So he spoke to his father, who agreed: Enough with the banking. Edoardo joined the family business, learning all about the herbs and spices that go into the various products as well as accounting.
“My father said, ‘That’s all fine. Now you need to learn how to sell.’”
Fortunately for all concerned, Edoardo “fell in love” with the U.S. market and enjoys nothing more than people sipping a complimentary Fernet-Branca.
It’s one of those beautiful things that happens.
For more, visit brancadistillerie.com And for more on Greenwich Polo Club, including the East Coast Open (Aug. 25, Sept. 1 and Sept. 8), visit greenwichpoloclub.com.