If you're into vintage boozy, classy drinks, the Hanky Panky cocktail is a good choice. The complex mix from the early 1900s combines three herbal components: gin, sweet vermouth, and the Italian Fernet Branca.
Gin with vermouth is a proven concept. They work well together, as we know from the classic Negroni. But the highlight of this cocktail is the addition of just the right amount of Fernet Branca. Its herbal notes bring a fine complexity to the drink.
Quick Facts Hanky Panky Cocktail
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: boozy, dry, herbal
- How to serve it: neat
- Glassware: Nick and Nora glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 24.5% ABV, 23.5 grams of alcohol per serving
So now, let's look at how to make this high-ABV cocktail and find out how the Hanky Panky got its unusual name.
- 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
Ingredients with Recommendations
Gin, sweet vermouth, and a bit of Fernet Branca, that is all it takes to make an amazing Hanky Panky cocktail. But what types of gin and which vermouth work best?
- Gin: I prefer a dry or London dry gin in a Hanky Panky because I like my cocktails dry, and it's the traditional way to mix this drink. For instance, Beefeater is great value for money and works great. If you like a tad more sweetness, opt for an Old Tom gin instead.
- Vermouth: opt for a quality sweet vermouth like Carpano Antica Formula. Some recipes ask for Martini Rosso, but for a Hanky Panky cocktail, I recommend picking something a little more refined.
- Fernet Branca: The final ingredient is Fernet Branca. Even if there's not much of it in the cocktail, it's the magic ingredient of this drink, and you won't get a perfect Hanky Panky cocktail without it.
More about Fernet: Like Campari, Fernet Branca's roots lie in Milan, Italy. It is an amaro herbal liqueur infused with 27 different herbs.
The complete formula is a well-kept secret, but we know 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.
It also contains a whopping 39% of alcohol, making it a second high-proof component in the Hanky Panky recipe. Apart from this cocktail, the flavorful Italian bitter is especially popular in Argentina. The Argentinians even make their unofficial national drink on it, the Fernet Coca.
Why stir, not shake
The Hanky Panky is a cocktail you prepare stirred in a mixing glass. You do not shake it. For those new to mixology, I want to explain quickly why that is important when preparing this drink:
Stirring with ice will generally cause less dilution than shaking with ice does. The Hanky Panky cocktail is a drink you want to water down as little as possible to receive the best result. That is also 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 nicely chilled. So, you will need ice when making it. And second, you need to mix the ingredients properly, which won't be easy in a small Nick and Nora glass.
Variations & Related Cocktails
To create variations of the original Hanky Panky recipe, you can start experimenting with ratios. Some like their drink even drier and boozier, increasing the amount of gin to 2oz and Fernet to 1/4 oz.
As mentioned above, if you want your drink a tad less dry while keeping its integrity, keep the ratios but replace dry gin with the slightly sweeter Old Tom Gin.
Alternatively, you can also try one of these related drinks, all with gin, sweet vermouth, and a herbal liqueur:
The History of the Hanky Panky Cocktail
The history of the Hanky Panky recipe begins in the early 1900s with Ada Coleman, 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 Harry Craddock worked, 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 jurors at 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.
Why the drink is called Hanky Panky
The cocktail allegedly got its name from mentioned juror Hawtrey. You may know that many drinks have unusual names, but Hanky Panky seems next-level unconventional.
The story goes that he first took a small sip, then emptied the whole glass in one big gulp. When he put the glass back on the counter, he exclaimed, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!". That's how the cocktail got its name.