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The Hanky Panky: The classy classic cocktail with a naughty name


While being snowed in last weekend, bwahaa, I was browsing through Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails” and I came across The Hanky Panky.  It’s one of those drinks that doesn’t sound as good as it tastes.  Imagine a light version of a Negroni with a eucalyptus note on the finish.  It’s adventurous and deliciously different. 

Haigh credits the drinks creation to Ada Coleman of the American Bar of the Savoy Hotel, London, in the 1920s.  Ada evidently created the cocktail for Sir Charles Hawtrey who exclaimed that it was “the real hanky panky”. 

Hanky Panky
1.5oz        Gin
1.5oz        Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes    Fernet Branca

Haigh’s recipe doesn’t specify the brand of Gin or Sweet Vermouth.  I used Death’s Door Gin with good results and Dolin Sweet Vermouth as I thought that Carpano Antica would be too big for the drink.  Depending on how well you like Fernet Branca you can go to as much as a skinny 1/4oz but don’t push it.  A little goes a long way and just a bar spoon full is probably enough for most.

Fernet Branca it’s a dark herbal liqueur with a definite eucalyptus finish.  It has been extremely popular in the bay area for many years.  In bartending lingo a “San Francisco handshake” is a round of Fernet shots.  It’s also very popular in portions of South America where it is served in Coke. 

The procedure for making the Hanky Panky is…place all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir.  Taste frequently as you stir and look for the balancing point.  That’s when each ingredients flavor is definable and any heat from the alcohol is no longer present.  At first you’ll get a lot of Vermouth but as you stir it will soften.  The Fernet will show mostly on the finish so pause to make sure you are analyzing the entire flavor profile of the drink before you stir more or pour.  When the right balance is attained strain the drink it into a chilled Cocktail glass with no ice.  Then, and as Haigh says most importantly, garnish it with a large twist of orange and make sure plenty of orange oil from the skin lays atop the drink.  He’s right.  The orange really sets the drink off.

So the next time you want something out of the ordinary to spice up your evening…try a little Hanky Panky.


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