Recipe: Hanky-Panky (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes (= 1/4 tsp) Fernet Branca
  • orange peel

Shake liquid ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with the orange peel.

The Hanky-Panky was created by Ada Coleman in the early 1900s, when she was the head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London. Female bartenders or “barmaids” were not uncommon in England at the beginning of the 20th century, but their numbers declined as the job was considered unsuitable for women. The Savoy Hotel bar was the same one where Coleman’s successor, Harry Craddock, wrote the famous Savoy Cocktail Book.

The meaning of “hanky-panky” at the time was along the lines of “hocus pocus”, implying slight-of-hand or trickery. The cocktail’s magic ingredient — distinguishing it from a sweet martini — is Fernet Branca. Fernets in general are especially strong-flavored amaros (bitter liquors). You’ll see Fernet Branca on some after-dinner drink menus, but we find it too strong to drink straight. Adding just 1/4 teaspoon of it to the Hanky-Panky gives the drink some pleasant bitterness and a striking minty aroma.

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