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 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?
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.
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
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.
The Hanky Panky isn’t the only cocktail created at the Savoy. The White Lady may have also been created here.
Ok. So we know who created the Hanky Panky cocktail. We also know that it dates back to the early 20th century prior to Prohibition. 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.
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
You probably already have most of the following ingredients required to craft a Hanky Panky cocktail:
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.
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%.
Discover our favorite gin cocktails.
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%.
Discover our favorite sweet vermouth cocktails.
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.
How To Craft A Hanky Panky Cocktail
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.
The next step is to add two dashes of Fernet-Branca. We used a mini angled measuring cup for this step.
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.
Don’t forget to garnish your cocktail with an orange twist!
Hanky Panky Cocktail Variations
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:
Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.
The Hanky Panky is a classic cocktail crafted with dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca.
The Hanky Panky cocktail was invented at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel.
Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Fernet Branca, Ice Cubes (for stirring) and Orange Peel (garnish)
The Hanky Panky cocktail is stirred, not shaken.
We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.
Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.
Hanky Panky Recipe
- 1½ ounces dry gin
- 1½ ounces sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Fernet-Branca
- orange peel (garnish)
- ice cubes (for mixing)
- Combine dry gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca in a mixing glass.
- Add several ice cubes and stir for 20 seconds or until the liquids are mixed and chilled.
- Strain into a small martini glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
- You can use a small martini glass instead of a coupe glass.
Thirsty For More Gin Cocktails?
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 their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: November 24, 2022