Hanky Panky cocktail

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

Sweet, bitter, and herbal. The Hanky Panky cocktail is a sophisticated drink with lots of flavors. - And a fun but not quite so sophisticated name.
Hanky Panky cocktail

If you're into old-school boozy and classy drinks, the Hanky Panky cocktail is a good choice. It is an interesting mix of Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Fernet Branca. It's heavy and complex and just right for sipping after a long day. 

Gin and Vermouth work well together, as they do in a classic Negroni, too. But the highlight of this cocktail is the addition of just the right amount of Fernet Branca. Its herbal notes more complexity to the drink. 

So now, let's look at the cocktail. How did the Hanky Panky get its unusual name? And when was it invented?

The story of the Hanky Panky cocktail

There are many unusual cocktail names. For instance, the Tom Collins, Boulevardier, and Greyhound, naming just a few. But Hanky Panky seems to be next-level unconventional.

Ada Coleman is the inventor of the drink. She was a famous bartender, working at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel in London. Perhaps the name rings a bell? It is the bar where also Harry Craddock worked. The author of the world-famous "Savoy Cocktail Book."

Back to Ada, or "Coley", as her regular guests called her. During the early 1900s, she often served drinks to Charles Hawtrey, one of the best cocktail judges of the time. Once, he asked her for a drink "that packs a punch". Coley spent hours experimenting and developing a new recipe. And when Charles stopped by the next time, she greeted him with her latest creation.

He sipped first, then allegedly emptied the whole glass in one big gulp. He put the glass back on the counter and exclaimed, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!". Not yet aware that from this day on, this would be the name of the cocktail.

The ingredients

Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and a bit of Fernet are all it takes to make an amazing Hanky Panky cocktail. But what types of Gin and which brands work best?

I prefer a dry Gin in a Hanky Panky, combined with a quality Sweet Vermouth like Carpano Antica Formula. Some recipes ask for Martini Rosso, but for a Hanky Panky cocktail, I would not opt for that.

The final ingredient is Fernet Branca. Even if there's not much of it in the cocktail, it's conceivable the magic ingredient of this drink. Same as Campari, Fernet Branca's origin is in Milan, Italy. It is a type of amaro bitter that gets extracted from 27 different herbs.  

The complete formula is a well-kept secret, but it is known that it contains various ingredients from all across the globe: Gentian from France, Galangal from India, Rhubarb from China, and Chamomile from Argentina are just a few of them.

Although it's labeled a herbal liqueur, it contains a whopping 39% of alcohol. It's an intense and flavorful Italian bitter that is especially popular in Argentina. The Argentinians even base their unofficial national drink on it, the Fernet Coca (Coca Cola mixed with Fernet).

Stir, don't shake

The Hanky Panky is a cocktail you prepare in a mixing glass rather than a shaker. For those new to mixology, I want to give a short explanation as to why it's important to adhere to that when preparing the drink.

Stirring with ice will generally cause less dilution than shaking with ice does. And the Hanky Panky is a drink that you want to water down as little as possible to receive the best result. That is why a stirred drink usually isn't served with ice.

Now, if you wonder, why not prepare it in the glass. First, because you still want your drink to be chilled, so you need ice for preparing. Therefore, you use a strainer to pour the drink and remove the ice. And second, you need to mix the ingredients, and you don't want to serve a cocktail that looks like a mess. So now, here's our recipe for some delicious Hanky Pankies.

Hanky Panky cocktail

Hanky Panky

A classic boozy cocktail made of Gin, Vermouth, and Fernet Branca.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Gin, vermouth
Servings: 1
Calories: 186kcal
Cost: $2.50


  • 1.5 oz Dry Gin
  • 1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 tsp Fernet Branca
  • 1 Twisted orange peel as garnish


  • Add all ingredients at once to your mixing glass and also add plenty of ice.
    1.5 oz Dry Gin, 1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 tsp Fernet Branca
  • Stir until the drink is well-chilled.
  • Strain into your chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the twisted orange peel.
    1 Twisted orange peel as garnish


Serving: 3.35oz | Calories: 186kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.38g | Sodium: 3mg | Sugar: 8.34g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Subscribe to Cocktail Society!

Receive our latest recipes, reviews, and insights - straight to your inbox.
Subscription Form

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

ContactAbout usPrivacy PolicyTermsSitemap
Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com.

© 2023 Cocktail-Society.com