The Downey Sour Cocktail

In honor of Chris Downey (commenter cybercedd), Round 1 winner of the SkepchickCON Psychic Challenge, I’ve created an original cocktail: the Downey Sour. Like any good skeptic, it’s a little peppery, a tad medicinal, and totally delicious.

The Downey Sour features Fernet-Branca, a bitter herbal Italian liqueur. The spirit has long been marketed as having many medicinal properties, including the ability to relieve menstrual cramps, and was even available legally in America during Prohibition because it was sold as a medicine. These days, people still claim that Fernet can settle your stomach or prevent a hangover–I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen evidence to the contrary of the latter claim, and at least one gastroenterologist says its digestif properties are also overrated.

Medical claims aside, Fernet is…something of an acquired taste. Menthol and bitters herbs overwhelm. But it has found its place, as a sort of bartenders’ handshake (especially here in San Francisco, where at least 25% of all of the Fernet in the US is sold), and as I’ve found as a modifying ingredient in cocktails.

Since Mr. Downey is psychic, he already knows everything that goes into making this drink, but for the rest of you, the directions (with step-by-step photos!) follow:

~ ~ ~

Downey Sour

  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz turbinado rich simple syrup*
  • 1/4 oz Fernet-Branca
  • Peppercorns in a grinder


1. Put the peppercorns in your mixing glass/tin and crush each one gently with a muddler.



2. Add the remaining ingredients to the glass/tin, along with a generous amount of ice.



3. Shake to chill (until frost forms on the outside of your tin).


4. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with fresh ground pepper.


Cheers, and congratulations again to Chris!



*To make turbinado rich simple syrup, combine two parts (by weight or volume) turbinado sugar with one part water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then allow to cool before transferring to a sealed container. Store in the fridge.

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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