The Challenge

“Do you carry Fernet Branca at this fine establishment?” the self-proclaimed King of Fernet asks the bartender.

“We do.”

The king whips out the coin – the Fernet challenge coin, that is. He pounds it onto the bar. The bartender looks at it, smiles. I observe, in a haze from two glasses of caramel-like Angel’s Envy rye and halfway through my second Abita Wrought Iron IPA, hoppy and then some.

“Do you keep your Fernet chilled or at room temperature?” the King asks the ‘tender.

“Room temp, but I can chill it for you, if you like.”

The King frowns. “Never put Fernet in a shaker,” he declares. Then, he turns to me. “Would you like one?”

How can I refuse? His Majesty turns back to the barman who now has the bottle in hand. “We’ll have two,” he says, holding up two fingers.

The bartender gathers four small rocks glasses and pours us two shots as well as one for himself and one for his bar-back. The King and I clink and lock eyes. “To your health,” the he says.

“To yours, brother.”