We’ve already talked about making a proper Martini and if you’ve read that article, the recipe in today’s article will look familiar. The Hanky Panky is almost identical to a martini made with sweet vermouth but with the addition of one extra ingredient. While the martini has its own history, the Hanky Panky also has its own fantastic tale.
One of the United State’s biggest losses during Prohibition was of bar men. And please note, I’m not being sexist when I say bar “men” -it was simply very rare for a woman to work behind the bar. Once Prohibition was enacted, many bartenders who studied, took great care in the cocktails they were crafting, and saw bartending as a noble profession, left the U.S. to apply their art and trade in a country where it was legal to do so.
Canada, Great Britain, and France were three locations many bartenders fled to. One of the most famous destinations was the Savoy Hotel in London, England. Maybe in a fit of premonition, the Savoy’s bar was named the American Bar in 1893 and it quickly became a destination for American bar men during Prohibition. Most famously, this is the bar where Harry Craddock plied his trade in 1930 and subsequently wrote one of the most influential cocktail books in history, the Savoy Cocktail Book.
However, prior to Mr. Craddock, there was a female bartender, Ada Coleman, who was the bartender at the Savoy beginning in 1903. In fact, for the first five years Mr. Craddock worked at the Savoy, he was stuck working the service bar while Ms. Coleman was the “face” of the hotel’s bar.
According to the fantastic tome Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh, the Hanky Panky was created for Sir Charles Hawtrey who was the mentor for one Noel Coward. Upon taking his first sip, Sir Hawtrey exclaimed “By jove! That is the real hanky panky!” Without further adieu…
1.5 ounces gin
1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes or one half a bar spoon Fernet Branca
Orange peel for garnish
Add gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca into an ice filled mixing glass. Stir for a slow count to 30 and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Press the orange peel over the drink to coat the top with the orange essential oils and add as a garnish.
Fernet Branca is an Italian Amaro (i.e. bittersweet liqueur) that tastes of herbs and a touch of mint. It can be an acquired taste, but in such small quantities in the Hanky Panky, it functions as cocktail bitters and adds just a touch of bewitching flavor. As for the garnish, don’t skip the orange peel because the oils really bring this cocktail together!