Semester Abroad Cocktail Recipe

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Semester Abroad Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 16, 2024


The Semester Abroad cocktail is a sophisticated blend that evokes the spirit of adventure and the rich experiences one gains from international travel. It's perfect for those with a taste for the bold and the bitter, and it's often enjoyed by seasoned travelers and students reminiscing about their time overseas.

  • Inspiration: This cocktail is inspired by the classic flavors of rye whiskey and the bitter notes of Fernet Branca, combined with the sweet citrus of Dry Curacao.
  • Popularity: It has gained popularity in cosmopolitan cities and is often served in upscale bars.
  • Audience: Ideal for those who appreciate a complex, layered drink.

How Semester Abroad Tastes?

The Semester Abroad offers a robust and spicy flavor profile from the rye whiskey, complemented by the herbal bitterness of Fernet Branca and the sweet, orangey notes of Dry Curacao. It's a strong, slightly sweet, and complex cocktail with a lingering aftertaste.

Interesting facts about Semester Abroad

  • The cocktail's name suggests a rich and diverse experience, much like spending a semester in a foreign country.
  • Fernet Branca is a type of amaro, a bitter herbal liqueur from Italy, which adds depth to the cocktail.
  • Dry Curacao is a clear liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the Laraha citrus fruit, originally from the island of Curaçao.


Rye Whiskey

Using 2 oz of rye whiskey as our base spirit gives our 'Semester Abroad' its strong backbone and spicy undertones. Rye is less sweet than bourbon, providing a different kind of warmth and complexity. If you skimp on the whiskey, the drink loses its punch, and too much would overpower the nuanced flavors of the other ingredients.

Mary Mitkina

Dry Curacao

Dry Curacao, at 1 oz, brings a light, citrusy sweet balance to the cocktail. It plays well with the spiciness of the rye and offers a hint of sophistication. Forget the Curacao? Say adieu to the subtle sweet notes that cut through the bitterness of the Fernet. A substitute like Triple Sec could work, but expect a slightly sweeter profile.

Emma Rose

Fernet Branca

Half an ounce is just enough Fernet Branca to introduce its minty, herbal bitterness to the party without gatecrashing. It's the wildcard that makes this cocktail an international affair. Miss out on Fernet, and you miss the unique edge that elevates the drink. A mint or amaro alternative may provide a similar herbal bitterness but won't replicate Fernet's distinctive character.

Alex Green

Recipe. How to make Semester Abroad Drink

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Pour 2 oz of rye whiskey into the glass.
  3. Add 1 oz of Dry Curacao.
  4. Measure and pour 0.5 oz of Fernet Branca.
  5. Stir the ingredients together until well-chilled.
  6. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass.
  7. Optionally, garnish with a twist of orange peel to enhance the citrus notes.

Pro Tips

  • Chill the cocktail glass before serving to keep the drink colder for longer.
  • When stirring the cocktail, aim for 30-40 seconds to ensure proper dilution and chilling.
  • Express the oils of the orange peel over the glass before adding it as garnish to release more aroma.

Perfect Pairings

Food Pairings

  • Charcuterie Boards: The spicy and bold flavors of rye whiskey, coupled with the bitterness of Fernet, will complement a variety of cured meats and hard cheeses.
  • Dark Chocolate Desserts: The complexity of the whiskey and the aromatic herbs in Fernet Branca can enhance the experience of indulging in a rich, bittersweet chocolate treat.
  • Grilled Steaks: The smoky, charred notes from grilled steak would be a robust match for the 'Semester Abroad' cocktail's depth of flavor.

Drink Pairings

  • Coffee: A post-dinner espresso or coffee to accompany the herbal and bitter notes of the cocktail.
  • Amber Ale: A beer with caramel notes could provide a lovely contrast and cleanses the palate between sips of this rich cocktail.

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What you could change in Semester Abroad

  • Rye Whiskey: Can be substituted with Bourbon for a sweeter, less spicy profile.
  • Dry Curacao: Triple Sec or Cointreau can be used as alternatives, though they may be slightly sweeter.
  • Fernet Branca: Other types of amaro can be used, but the unique flavor of Fernet is hard to replicate.

Explore all drinks starting with S here

And of course - twists🍹

Citrus-Infused Semester

  • Drop the Dry Curacao to 0.5 oz and add 0.5 oz of fresh orange juice.
  • Include a splash of sparkling water for a fizzier experience.
  • This version would have a fresher, juicier taste, perfect for summer afternoons on the quad.

The Midterm Meltdown

  • Swap the rye whiskey for bourbon, which brings a sweeter, fuller body to the drink.
  • Stir in a teaspoon of honey before adding ice.
  • A sweeter, more comforting take on the 'Semester Abroad'—ideal for when the study grind gets tough.

The Graduate

  • Use aged rye whiskey for a deeper wood-infused flavor profile.
  • Add a bar spoon of maple syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters.
  • A more sophisticated, rounded twist, showing how far you've come since freshman year.

In case you forgot basics how to make Semester Abroad

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Insert the spoon into the glass until it touches the bottom. Keep the back of the spoon against the inside wall of the glass, and stir in a smooth, circular motion. The goal is to swirl the ice and ingredients together without churning or splashing.

Learn everything on how to stir

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Semester Abroad

What is the origin of rye whiskey?

Rye whiskey originally comes from the northeastern United States and Canada. In the United States, it must be distilled from a mash of at least 51% rye grain to be labeled as rye whiskey.

Can I use a different type of ice for mixing the cocktail?

While standard ice cubes will work well, using larger ice cubes or ice spheres can reduce dilution, keeping your cocktail stronger and colder longer without watering it down.

What's the best way to garnish with an orange peel?

To garnish with an orange peel, use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to carefully cut a thin strip of peel. Twist it over the drink to spritz the citrus oils on top and then drop it into the glass or run it along the rim.

How long does it take to properly chill a cocktail glass?

It typically takes about 5 minutes to chill a cocktail glass in the freezer. Alternatively, you can fill the glass with ice and cold water while you prepare your cocktail to chill it more quickly.

What is Fernet Branca?

Fernet Branca is a bitter, aromatic spirit known as an amaro. It is made from a number of herbs and spices which are secret, but it is known for its strong flavor profile which includes myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and saffron.

Is there a non-alcoholic substitute for Dry Curacao in mocktails?

For a non-alcoholic version, you can use a combination of orange juice and a splash of lime juice to mimic the orange flavor of Dry Curacao without the alcohol content.

What technique is recommended for stirring the cocktail?

Stir the cocktail with a bar spoon using a smooth and gentle motion, moving the spoon back and forth without agitating the liquid too much to prevent over-dilution and maintain clarity.

Are there any seasonal variations of the Semester Abroad cocktail?

For a fall twist, consider adding a dash of cinnamon syrup or swapping the Dry Curacao for a spiced orange liqueur to emphasize warming spice notes.

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