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Fernet-Branca celebrates 25 years of St. JOHN

Fergus Henderson with a Fernet-Branca. Photo by Sam A. Harris

Classic Italian digestif Fernet-Branca is celebrating the 25th anniversary of iconic London restaurant  St. JOHN by presenting co-owner and renowned chef Fergus Henderson with a specially designed Fernet-Branca challenge coin.

The coin recognises the devotion that Henderson holds for Fernet-Branca, which is the principal ingredient in his two favourite cocktails, the Dr. Henderson and the Hanky Panky.

This marks the first time a Fernet-Branca coin has been created for a specific venue rather than for an event, and the exclusive coin will be sent to VIP guests invited to the party to mark the restaurant’s anniversary in September.

Fergus Henderson enjoys a Fernet-Branca. Photo by Sam A. Harris

Henderson is responsible for transforming how and what people cook and eat. He coined the now-ubiquitous phrase Nose-to-Tail in his seminal and multi-award-winning cookbook of the same name, Nose to Tail Eating, which was published in 1999 and went on to be named in the LA Times as the most influential cookbook of all time. It has never been out of print.

2019 sees not only 25 years of St. JOHN but also the publication of a new book, The Book of St. JOHN, which includes the recipe for Henderson’s beloved Hanky Panky.

Fergus Henderson said: “Fernet Branca has been a ritual of mine for many years. It’s the ideal kitchen nip and I am proud to discover that a generation of chefs feel just the same. It is a miracle. I can trace its path through my body – ping! Ping! Like a human pinball machine, working its magic as it goes. It has been my ritual at St. JOHN for many years and, as we now celebrate our quarter-century, we are living proof of its benefits.”

Poppy Croft, marketing manager with Fernet-Branca UK distributor Hi-Spirits, said: “Thousands of Dr. Hendersons and Hanky Pankys have been served over the bar at St. JOHN over the past 25 years, and Fergus’ passion has introduced many customers, as well as bartenders and chefs, to the delights of Fernet-Branca.

Fergus Henderson enjoys a Fernet-Branca. Photo by Sam A. Harris

“It’s very appropriate that St. JOHN is the first venue to have its own Fernet-Branca coin, and creating an exclusive design for Fergus and the team seemed the right way for us to mark the 25th anniversary of one of London’s finest restaurants.”

Fernet-Branca coins are carried and swapped by a select group of bartenders, chefs and industry professionals around the world, marking their membership of the exclusive Fernet-Branca Secret Society. The many different designs celebrate the brand’s heritage and versatility.

Created in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca, Fernet-Branca is a 39% ABV digestif amaro with a distinctive bitter flavour, still made to the closely-guarded original recipe.

The Hanky Panky was created at the Savoy in London in 1926. In his new book, Henderson says of the cocktail: “It lifts the spirits like nothing else. Take equal measures of Gin and Punt e Mes, stir with ice, strain into a cold martini glass. Gently pour a little Fernet-Branca float, serve with a twist of lemon.”

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

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