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By Harriet Leigh, Head of Hospitality ISSUE #008 IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN | Education

Cocktail Profile: The Hanky Panky

Amongst the drinks that manage to stand the test of time there are always a few similarities – they’re often delicious, simple, and have something about them, a je ne sais quoi, that sparks the imagination.

What they rarely have is a bona fide story, an authentic, reliable history. Frequently when we think they do have a solid lineage someone finds an archaic book which debunks the whole damn thing. There is a fairly good reason why we don’t know where drinks come from. That’s because people are drinking when they’re invented.

There is one drink, however, that we categorically know the history of, and that’s the Hanky Panky. Its creator, Ada Coleman was Head Bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London from 1903 – 1924. In the 125-year history of the bar there have only been 11 Head Bartenders, and of those only one was a woman. Late last year the Savoy appointed another female senior bartender, Phillipa Guy. So only 93 years between wimmin’s innings then.

According to Ada the story goes:

“The late Charles Hawtrey... was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, "Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it." The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!" And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.”

The drink itself is made from three staple backbar ingredients: gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca, a bitter Italian herbal liqueur. It’s big, bitter, and bold. It is an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it, you won’t be letting it go. The time for ordering a Hanky Panky is after dinner, when the real drinking begins. Or at the start of the night, when you need a little spank on your flank after work, or when you only have time for one more and the road is calling. It’s a versatile beast, rewarding the devout drinker at a wide variety of times. I imagine in 1918, when women were granted the vote in England, and Ada was serving behind the American Bar at the Savoy, she would’ve raised a Hanky Panky and called for a cheers. By Jove, I’ll drink to that.

The Hanky Panky: - 30ml Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin - 30ml sweet vermouth - 2.5 - 7.5ml Fernet Branca

The original recipe suggests two dashes of Fernet Branca, I would suggest that the modern palate has muted its lust for sweetness. In the age of umami I would bump that Fernet up. Up to you.

Whatever your taste, combine the ingredients in a mixing glass (if you need one we’ve got you covered here) stir it until chilled and combined (this depends on size of your ice, taste as you go if you’re unsure). Strain into a coupette (if you chill it prior you’re winning), cut a dainty twist of orange peel. Express the oils over the surface of the drink. Twist into a little pig’s tail, plop in, awaken your mouth.

View the full recipe