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Hanky Panky Cocktail Recipe

Just thinking about the Hanky Panky cocktail makes us smile beyond its giggle-inducing name. This classic cocktail takes the gin martini to exciting levels with two magical dashes of Fernet-Branca. And, like most classic cocktails, it’s super easy to craft at home with just a few ingredients.

Hanky Panky Cocktail Close Up with Black Background

Hanky Panky is a term with multiple meanings. It can be used to describe behavior that’s naughty, mischievous or even shady.

However, cocktail connoisseurs know that the best use of Hanky Panky has nothing to do with nefarious activities. They know that the Hanky Panky cocktail is a sophisticated cocktail that creates joy with each and every sip.

What Is the Hanky Panky Cocktail?

Hanky Panky Cocktail with Black Background
The Hanky Panky is a serious cocktail.

Despite its somewhat silly name, the Hanky Panky cocktail is a serious cocktail that’s crafted with dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca.

The gin and sweet vermouth are the Hanky Panky’s dominant ingredients, each equally added in a 1:1 ratio. However, two dashes of Fernet-Branca elevate the classic cocktail to extraordinary status.

Warning
The Hanky Panky recipe has no mixers to dilute its potency. Accordingly, imbibe this cocktail with caution instead of abandon.

History of the Hanky Panky Cocktail

Hanky Panky Cocktail with Black Background from Above
The Hanky Panky cocktail’s history is no mystery.

Pre-dating the Hanky Panky song (not to be confused with the Hokey Pokey song) by decades, the Hanky Panky debuted more than a century ago at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel. Ada Coleman concocted the Hanky Panky recipe during her tenure as the American Bar’s head bartender from 1903 to 1923.

Fun Fact
The Hanky Panky isn’t the only cocktail created at the Savoy. The White Lady may have also been created here.

Hanky Panky Cocktail with White Background
There’s no need to be cranky when you drink a Hanky Panky.

Ok. So we know who created the Hanky Panky cocktail. We also know that it dates back to the early 20th century. But we’re not sure of the exact year of its creation. Regardless of the year, the trailblazing female bartender was way ahead of her time when she crafted the first Hanky Panky and served it to actor Sir Charles Hawtrey.

Fun Fact
Legend has it that the Hanky Panky got its name when Hawtrey took a sip and exclaimed that Coleman’s sophisticated gin cocktail was the “real hanky panky.”

Harry Craddock took over the bar’s reigns in 1925 and later achieved cocktail fame for penning The Savoy Cocktail Book. Not surprisingly, the Hanky Panky is prominently featured in Craddock’s iconic book.

Hanky Panky Cocktail Ingredients

Liquors for Hanky Panky Cocktail Recipe
The Hanky Panky cocktail’s ingredients include three liquors – dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca.

You probably already have most of the following ingredients required to craft a Hanky Panky cocktail:

  • Dry Gin
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Fernet-Branca
  • Ice Cubes (for stirring)
  • Orange Peel (garnish)

Like us, you may need to purchase a bottle of Fernet-Branca since It’s a necessary ingredient in this cocktail. The good news is that the Amaro is a liquor cabinet multitasker since it doubles as an after-dinner digestif. It also tastes great served on ice cream.

Gin

Citadelle Gin Bottle
Citadelle dry gin hails from France.

While any quality dry gin will work in this recipe, we chose to use Citadelle dry gin from France. Produced in Cognac, the premium gin features 19 botanicals and has an ABV of 44%.

Sweet Vermouth

Bottle of Carpano Sweet Vermouth
Carpano Classico hails from Italy.

Since sweet vermouth is featured in so many cocktails, you probably have a bottle in your cabinet. The bottle in our cabinet happens to be Carpano Classico, so that’s what we used to craft this cocktail. This Italian liquor has a secret recipe, a deep ruby shade and an ABV of 16%.

Fernet Branca

Fernet Branca Bottle
Fernet-Branca hails from Italy and doubles as an after dinner digestif.

Fernet-Branca is easy to find since it’s Italy’s most popular Amaro brand. Made in Milan with 27 different herbs and botanicals, Fernet-Branca has an herbacious bitterness that reminds us of menthol. It also has a 39% ABV.

While most people either love or hate Amaro, we’re kind of in the middle. It’s an acquired taste that gets better every time we taste it.

Buy bottles of Gin, Sweet Vermouth and/or Fernet-Branca from Drizly or Total Wine if you live in the US.

How To Craft a Hanky Panky Cocktail

Hanky Panky Cocktail Mise en Place
Crafting a Hanky Panky cocktail is easy once you gather the necessary ingredients and tools.

After we made our fair share of hanky panky jokes, crafting our first Hanky Panky cocktail took us mere minutes using the following tools:

Don’t worry if you don’t have any or all of these tools. Each is inexpensive and you can improvise in a pinch if you don’t already own them.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

The first step is to measure the gin and sweet vermouth and pour each directly into a mixing glass. We like to use a Japanese jigger to ensure accurate measurements and make clean pours. Another option is to use a small angled measuring cup.

Buy a Japanese jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

The next step is to add two dashes of Fernet-Branca. We used a mini angled measuring cup for this step.

Measuring Fernet Branca for a Hanky Panky Cocktail
A little bit of Fernet-Branca goes a long way in this Hanky Panky recipe.

Buy a mini angled measuring cup if you don’t have already have one. It’s a handy kitchen tool that doubles as a cocktail tool.

Add ice and stir with a bar spoon until the gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca are combined and chilled. This step should take about 20 seconds.

The final step is to strain the cocktail into a martini or coupe glass.

Straining Hanky Panky Cocktail
We experienced no pain when we strained this Hanky Panky cocktail.

Don’t forget to garnish your cocktail with an orange twist!

Hanky Panky Cocktail Variations

Crafted Hanky Panky Cocktail
Will you love or hate the Hanky Panky cocktail?

There’s only one way to find out if the Hanky Panky cocktail tickles your tongue. If so, great. If not, you may prefer one of the following variations:

  • Craft a drier Hanky Panky cocktail by changing the dry gin/sweet vermouth ratio from 1:1 to 2:1.
  • Enhance the orange flavor with either a splash of orange juice or a couple dashes of orange bitters.
  • Omit the Fernet-Branca to craft a sweet gin Martini cocktail.
  • Replace the Fernet-Branca with maraschino liqueur and add angostura bitters to craft a Martinez cocktail.

Hanky Panky Cocktail FAQs

What is the Hanky Panky cocktail?

The Hanky Panky is a classic cocktail crafted with dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca.

Where was the Hanky Panky cocktail invented?

The Hanky Panky cocktail was invented at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel.

What are the ingredients in a Hanky Panky cocktail?

Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Fernet Branca, Ice Cubes (for stirring) and Orange Peel (garnish)

Is the Hanky Panky cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Hanky Panky cocktail is stirred, not shaken.

What type of glass is best for the Hanky Panky cocktail?

We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.

Hanky Panky Cocktail Recipe

Hanky Panky Cocktail with White Background

Hanky Panky Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Hanky Panky has been tickling tongues for more than a century. Learn how to craft the classic cocktail at home in just five minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces dry gin
  • 1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet-Branca
  • orange peel
  • https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432064158013883197/ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Combine dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca in a mixing glass.
  2. Add several ice cubes and stir for 20 seconds or until the liquids are mixed and chilled.
  3. Strain into a small martini glass.
  4. Garnish with an orange twist.

Notes

  • You can use a small martini glass instead of a coupe glass.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: November 24, 2022

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