Food & Drink

The Hanky Panky: A Classic Cocktail with a Great Backstory

The Hanky Panky has one of the better backstories of all the classic cocktails. Composed of gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca, the drink was invented in the early part of the 20th century at the American Bar inside London’s Savoy Hotel. Its creator was Ada Coleman, one of only two women ever to hold the position of head bartender at the fabled venue (which still exists today, and has only had 11 head bartenders, period, in its 125-year history). Coleman’s muse was a leading actor of the era, an Englishman named Charles Hawtrey. As she recounted for a British tabloid in 1925, Hawtrey frequented the bar, often telling her, “I’m tired, Coley. Give me something with a bit of punch to it.” Coleman set about experimenting, and the next time Hawtrey came in, she told him she had a new drink for him. He took a sip, then drained the glass, and said, ‘By Jove! That is the real Hanky Panky!’”

It’s worth noting that back then, the phrase ‘hanky panky’ had a different connotation than it does today. Hawtrey wasn't being racy; he meant the drink tasted like something akin to black magic. And when you mix up one and take a sip, you’ll see why.

Here’s how you do it:

Ingredients |

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Method |

  • Add gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet to a mixing glass with ice.
  • Stir to chill and combine.
  • Strain into a chilled Coupe, and garnish with an orange twist.