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The Hanky Panky

~ This is the first in a series of Cocktail Columns by Vancouver’s Shaun Layton. ~

The Hanky Panky, by Ada Coleman

From 1903 through to 1926, Ada Coleman, or as her regulars called her, “Coley”, worked the bar at the Savoy Hotel’s, American Bar, in London. She was a very talented bartender who proceeded the great, Harry Craddock, who in 1924 would come over the pond from America to manage the Savoy. Six years later he would publish the Savoy cocktail book, where the first recipe for the Hanky Panky was found.

Ada had regulars such as Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, and Mark Twain. One particular regular, Charles Hawtrey, an English actor prefered a drink, “with a bit of punch to it.” One evening Ada came up with a new recipe involving London dry gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Upon tasting it Mr. Hawtrey said, “By Jove! That is the real hany panky”! It has been called the, Hanky Panky ever since.

The great thing about the Hanky Panky cocktail is that a drink with only three ingredients is so delicious. The secret is nailing the dilution and the temperature. I like to use Beefeater as the gin component because the heavier juniper presence really stands up well to the complexity of the Fernet Branca.  I use Cinzano Rosso for the vermouth. I find certain other vermouths like, Carpano Antica formula a little too complex for this cocktail. Finally, the orange twist also helps pull everything together by delivering an elegant citrus nose.  As you taste, the spice notes from the gin will be first, then the fruit from the vermouth, finished with the lovely bitter characteristics of the Fernet Branca. Here’s the recipe:

45 ml Beefeater gin
45 ml Cinzano Rosso vermouth
10 ml Fernet Branca

Method- Add all ingredients to a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze an orange peel over the cocktail and drop in the glass. Enjoy.

My favorite pre-dinner cocktail, but really can be enjoyed anytime!

Shaun Layton

  • Travis M.

    Simplicity is a wonderful thing in cocktails. :-) And Hanky Panky.