The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel and its cocktail book are so important to the history of bartending that several cocktail geeks I know can name every head bartender who has worked there, in order.
One of the most famous bartenders on that list is Ada Coleman, the bar’s second head bartender who controlled the bar program from 1903 to 1924. Sometime during her tenure she created the Hanky Panky cocktail, her most enduring invention.
The drink is just equal parts gin and sweet vermouth with a few dashes of Fernet-Branca. It’s this last ingredient that makes the cocktail exciting.
Fernet-Branca is a bitter herbal digestif popular with bartenders as an after-work shot. The extreme flavor of it can be too intense for many people, but used in dashes as in the Hanky Panky it is lovely: It adds a wintergreen minty quality to the cocktail without adding too much bitterness.
Created by Ada Coleman Circa 1925
2 Dashes Fernet-Branca
1.5 fl. oz. Dry Gin (Such as Beefeater, Plymouth, or Tanqueray)
1.5 fl. oz. Sweet (Italian, Red) Vermouth
Orange peel for garnish
Stir all ingredients except orange peel with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Express the orange peel oils onto the drink and drop peel into the drink.