In this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe reflect on what Black Friday means for them. Each host shares the gifts they hope to buy for loved ones and themselves this Black Friday — from sought-after bottles to kitchen gadgets and more.
Of course, surfing the web for deals or bracing crowds at local department stores can be a difficult task after a long night of sipping and feasting. What better way to refresh your palate than a nice digestif? For this Friday’s tasting, our hosts try Fernet, an amaro that’s gained popularity in the service industry during recent years.
Tune in for more.
Check Out The Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From Auburn, Alabama, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And from Manhattan, New York, I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: This is the Black Friday “VinePair Podcast.”
J: Do people really still do the store thing?
A: Yes. It’s a whole thing. It brings families together.
Z: The only Black Friday thing that I do — this is so dorky. The grocery store that I go to every Black Friday puts out $400 worth of gift cards for $300 if you’re one of the first people. They go up at like three in the morning on Friday morning and if you’re one of the first couple hundred people to buy them, you can save $100 on your groceries. So that’s what I did this morning.
Z: That’s life as a parent, I gotta tell you.
J: It’s a good deal.
Z: It’s worth getting up early for. It’s our most American holiday, let’s be clear.
A: Well, you know what’s really funny to me is that Zach, I think you and I noticed together when the conference Wine to Wine was around this time of year. We did the podcast live from Wine to Wine three years ago, and you and I were in Verona. We noticed that all the stores there this week do Black Friday sales. And you’re like, “Wait, we exported this.”
Z: We have sadly exported so much about the American celebration of Christmas. It’s funny, I was talking to someone not that long ago about how Americanized Christmas has become in Europe. There’s just much more emphasis on gifts and Black Friday. It’s something else, but I guess it’s a good day for a podcast. You guys gotta listen to something.
A: Oh my gosh, yes. So hopefully, you’re listening to this right now as you’re going through the racks. You can do this. You’re going to find the best deal. Find that pair of pants you’ve been looking for, or hopefully, you’re going to find that new tablecloth because I’m sure yesterday a lot of wine was spilled on it. It’s all good. You’re going to be fine. I don’t even know what Nintendo we’re buying right now, or if we’re really into Xbox. I don’t know. Get whatever you need to get, OK?
Z: Did either of you ever get the, like, absolute hot-sh*t Christmas present? Like, the Tickle Me Elmo or the Furby?
J: The Furby? Yes, I did. Then, I had to hide it because it wouldn’t turn off. I had to bury it under pillows and in a deep drawer.
A: I don’t think I ever got a trendy present.
J: Not like the Cabbage Patch Kid, back in the day?
A: What do you take me for?
J: I know when you were born, Adam, come on.
A: I’m not a Cabbage Patch Kid person. Oh, I got a dog.
Z: The trendiest of all gifts.
A: My puppy popped out of a box. I named him Buddy. I was 9.
Z: OK. That’s a great name. I have no criticism here.
A: So, Black Friday. I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the gifts we’re excited about this year in the world of libations — sort of like what we’re drinking today to get us through Black Friday. So, straight Scotch. Yeah. Zach, have you given any thoughts on what’s on your list?
Z: It’s funny, the kind of convenient thing about this timing is that my wife’s birthday comes very shortly after Black Friday. Caitlyn now is a big fan of drinking in general and a big fan of a lot of things, including Scotch, which is something I am considering for her. Her favorite thing that she has kind of gotten into over the last few years is that she’s really become more and more of a true bourbon lover in addition to all other kinds of whiskey. I certainly take any opportunity I can to expand our whiskey and bourbon selections. So, I’ve had my eye on a few different bottles. There are the things that I would love to get, but probably can’t from an availability standpoint. Obviously, we’ve talked about this before on the podcast that the bourbon scene has gotten pretty wild out there. But I think having heard you, Adam, do an interview about this and having tasted it a couple of times, I think the top of my list in terms of things to get is a bottle of the Jefferson’s Ocean. It’s a super-cool bourbon. I think Caitlin will really enjoy it, and then I’ll get to drink some, too. Have you tried it, Adam?
A: Embarrassingly, there’s a bottle of it that I have in my apartment that I’ve not opened.
Z: Today could be the day you could do that.
A: I have not tried it, but I hear people really think it’s cool. What’s become collectible from it is the older versions of it when it was being done on, I think, smaller ships and was out for longer. Now, I know some bourbon people don’t love the newer ones as much. They feel like they’re not as briny and interesting. I don’t know. But yeah, everyone I talked to who’s tried it has liked it. You know why? It’s a cool bottle, it’s special, and I have to wait for a reason to open it, and I just never opened it.
Z: There is something to that, even with spirits, which do tend to last for a long time. There is that like, “If I open it am I going to ruin it if I don’t drink at all?”
A: It’s so dumb. But I haven’t. Maybe I should do that when I get back, just open it.
Z: Yeah, that’s true.
A: So what about other stuff? You told us about bourbon, but there’s gotta be other stuff.
Z: I was just actually having this conversation with friends who were over not that long ago about how we are starting to do a little bit more entertaining. For me, entertaining usually involves cooking and also making cocktails, because those are two things I enjoy doing for other people. I have a decent amount of home bartending equipment, and I’m not a huge fan of gadgets, but I was thinking that there are two things that I really want to get for myself. One very small and simple and one that’s a little more indulgent and so on. On the small and simple side, I really need a good, atomizer or mister or something. I want to be able to do some spritzers. I’m thinking of Sazerac, a cocktail I love to make. Normally, when I make a Sazerac, I just pour a bit of absinthe in and swirl around the glass and drink it or dump it. But the atomizer is a little better at getting a more full and equal coating on the glass. There’s a lot of other cocktails you can use it for. I like more vermouth in my Martinis than I would get that way, but I think it’s also a nice way to do that. Just having a couple of those that I can use when I am making a drink for myself. Certainly, if I’m entertaining anyone, that’s something that I think I’d really like to get. On the more indulgent side, we’ve been talking about it a lot on the podcast because it’s been a growing trend: I really need to get a better blender. Granted, we’re in winter now; I don’t really think I’m going to make a lot of frozen drinks. But the blenders are readily available and on sale. I think I need to bite the bullet.
J: Now’s the time to get it.
Z: I know, I know, I know. I’m busy talking to you guys; I’m not trying to do my online shopping while recording a podcast.
A: Get the Vitamix right now, I hear there’s a great sale running.
Z: There’s something about that quality you get when you get a really good blended drink. Whether that’s a Piña Colada, which I love, a Margarita, or any of the other things you can make. Those are my things. Joanna, how about you?
J: It’s always very challenging for my parents and my family; I don’t think I can get my mom one more sweater. So I’m thinking that for my parents, maybe a gift card to a restaurant is a good idea. The Hawksmoor is a good pick because they do love Martinis and maybe they can go have some cold Martinis at the Hawksmoor.
A: Oh, I love this idea.
J: It came to me actually when you were talking about it earlier this week, Adam. Otherwise, earlier this year, I got my dad a bottle of Don Julio 1942. I think I got it for him in May, and I’m pretty sure it’s done. He really drank through it for a nice bottle of tequila. We have a few lists coming out for great bottles to gift this season. I’m thinking that maybe Grand Patrón Platinum could be featured. I feel I’m at the age where a good bottle of spirits is a nice gift. So maybe that. I was also kind of toying with this idea of making infused spirits for people. Is that lame? Maybe an olive oil-washed vodka for my parents.
Z: Oh, you’re not just going to make a big batch of banana rum for everyone?
J: I was thinking I might make some banana rum, too.
Z: People are not going to make any of these infused spirits for themselves. But definitely no one’s getting them banana rum, except perhaps you. Making a big batch of it isn’t much more work than making one for yourself.
J: Yeah, exactly. So that’s one thing. In terms of what I like, I have a very random assortment of glassware, and I feel like I need some good cocktail glasses. I don’t have any Nick and Noras, and I’d like some. I have massive coupes — I think they’re 10 ounces or something insane — and I’d like a smaller one.
A: I have too many coupes. Yeah, I like this idea.
J: What that leads to is really, really big cocktails, which isn’t great. So some more barware for Christmas, I think would be nice.
Z: What’s the right number of glasses to get of any one kind of cocktail glass, in your opinion Joanna?
Z: OK. I think that’s the middle, for sure.
J: I mean, it really depends on how much room you have.
A: I think I got six.
J: I have six of those massive coupes.
A: Get rid of them. Smash them, they’d make a really great art piece.
Z: Get married six times.
A: I’ve got to get rid of some of that stuff, too. But I think you need six because if one breaks, you really still have four, right? I feel like once you have four, if you break one, it’s happened to me with coupes that we really love, they’re small. Now they don’t make them anymore.We’re like, what do we do with these three odd coupes that we have? We have a couple over and we’re having cocktails, so now I’m drinking out of one of the massive ones that I don’t like.
Z: Well, that’s the thing, too. Whether you get them retail or you go get them vintage or whatever, it’s so hard to find if you break one. You’re never going to find a replacement unless it’s some incredibly widely produced glass. That gives some merit to going that route just for the sake of either adding to your total or replacing broken glasses. But at the same time, do you really want the IKEA brand glassware? Nothing against IKEA, but probably not.
J: What about you, Adam?
A: OK, so things that I’m looking for. First, I would like to get the people in my life a nicer wine fridge just for storage. I’d also like one myself, but it won’t fit. It works for proper storage, though. I also have been looking at some nice bottles for people in my life, and I’ve gotten really into white Burgundy. So maybe a white Burgundy.
Z: Do you have a favorite village?
A: I don’t really, I just like it right now. I’m in the peripheral phase.
Z: I’m going to turn around and look at my white Burgundy collection while you talk.
A: Yeah, that’s a real humblebrag.
Z: Yeah, It’s not humble. It’s just a straight brag.
A: Then the thing I really want, is not a drinks product. I personally want the winemaker’s shoe of choice,
Z: Which is?
A: A pair of Blundstones. Apparently, winemakers all wear them. I’ve seen them on so many winemakers’ feet. I would like a pair as well. I think I’m gonna get those today, actually, because there’s a sale running on the site. Do you have a pair?
J: I do.
A: Super comfortable?
J: Very comfortable. Evan does as well, and so does his whole family.
A: So I’m getting some really strong endorsements right now. I might as well pull the trigger. That’s really it. I always could use more Champagne in my life, and I like to give Champagne. It’s the easiest gift for anyone that you don’t really know what they’re into. Because who doesn’t like Champagne?
Z: Even if they don’t like it, they can find an occasion to open it.
A: Exactly. I think that it’s the easiest go-to gift. Just go get a nice bottle of Champagne, give it to someone. They will like it, and they will appreciate it. And as you said, if they don’t, they will always find a reason to open it, or they will be able to give it to someone else who will love it. So those are my things. But I’m still feeling really full from Thanksgiving. So I felt like what we could all do is take a little shot of Fernet. So quickly, what are your impressions or thoughts on Fernet?
J: I haven’t had Fernet in a really long time. I had to dust this old bottle off that was in the cupboard. It smells really good. I remember Fernet was such a big thing when I was working at Bon Appétit, and chefs would drink it and you’d have it after dinner. It was making its way into a lot of different courses. A lot of desserts had Fernet at a certain point.
Z: There was that Fernet ice cream.
A: We had Fernet brownies at some place.
J: Maybe you guys can explain the thing about Fernet. Why is it so popular, or what’s the deal?
A: I think it has become so popular in the chef and beverage community. Maybe not as much as it used to be. It was really the gateway drug for amari in general. Now, I think there are lots of different ones. This category is still very popular in the world of beverage and the world of food. But every kind of place now has theirs. Fernet is not the go-to.
A: Yes. But Branca’s not the go-to anymore. I’ve had people who are like, we take shots of Braulio at the end of the night. Everyone has their own now — especially in New York. I feel like that’s the case. But Branca was the go-to. What I think is really interesting is that it’s always been the go-to in Argentina, but only mixed with Coke. Fernet and Coke has basically kept the company alive for a very long time because it sells so well in Argentina for that specific cocktail. Whereas we re-embraced it in the last 10 years. I think it took off because people who work in the service industry like that aggressive herbal flavor. It just re-energizes your palate in a way that a glass of white Burgundy at the end of the night might not.
Z: Well, there’s the palate refreshing element. I think a big part of its appeal, even if it’s not clear to people, is that it actually has a lot of sugar in it. So if you’re drinking it at the end of a shift, but you’re going to go out and keep drinking, Fernet gives you a second wind.
A: So it doesn’t give you wings like Red Bull; it gives you a second wind.
Z: Yes. I think its off-putting nature — bitterness, high alcohol content — is a gatekeeping mechanism. There’s a reason it was the bartenders’ handshake. It’s because no one was going to sit down who didn’t know what it was and order it. It’s very unusual. The first time almost anyone tries it, they don’t like it. Maybe nowadays, if someone has had a lot of other bitter liqueurs, amari, etc., they might taste it — whether it’s Branca or some other producers like it. But to me, the whole appeal to it is that it’s verging on unlikable. That gives it a certain cachet. So much of the food and beverage hospitality industry is about these kinds of extremes and pushing yourself to the limit in one way or another. It’s no different than the things that people choose to drink. So it’s let’s say an acquired taste at best is a big part of why it became popular. But then, of course, when it becomes something that is seen as this insider drink, then people work to acquire the taste for it, even if they’re not with it. I didn’t like Fernet the first time I tried it, for sure. Now, I wouldn’t even say that I love it, but it’s definitely something that has certain associations to me. Mainly getting off work at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night.
A: Yeah. All right. Let’s drink it.
Z: Definitely helped to wash away that turkey.
J: Yeah. I would never order it.
A: I enjoy it, but I definitely enjoy other amari more at this point. But I do think it’s pretty enjoyable.
Z: I will actually say, as you mentioned Adam, Fernet and Coke is friggin’ delicious.
J: Yeah, I feel like I need some Coca-Cola.
Z: I don’t like Coca-Cola with those things, and I don’t like most spirits in soda. But that’s really good.
A: So, I do have an admission. We’re not together today. I’m not drinking Branca. It’s Faccia Brutto, who I think is the best craft amari producer in the New York area. But he makes a Fernet that’s really delicious, and I’m drinking that. Sorry to Branca.
Z: Well, you know what to get Joanna and I for Christmas now.
J: I’d like to do a side-by-side.
A: Yeah, we should. Maybe we’ll do that next week. Well, guys, I hope you had really great Thanksgivings. I’ll talk to you next Tuesday when we’re back.
J: Go get those deals.
A: I’m going to go get my Blundstones.
Z: Sounds great!
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.