The Hanky Panky Cocktail is a classic that dates back to at least the 1920s, so there have been some variations on it. The classic version is 1.5 ounces of gin, 1.5 ounces of sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes of Fernet Branca, a bitter, aromatic spirit, all stirred with ice in a mixing glass rather than shaken.
(Disclosure: Fernet sent me a bottle to sample, with the request to use it in this cocktail.)
The result is a flavor that hints at sweet orange with cinnamon and cloves, but isn’t quite any of those, and certainly isn’t very sweet. The overall flavor is bittersweet, like dark chocolate, with the bitterness and sweetness both present and yet canceling each other out.
It’s strangely addictive, partly because you can never quite figure it out, and partly because it just tastes good.
This is a great choice for a Valentine’s Day cocktail. Interesting side note: I’m new to Fernet-Branca, so I tasted this one with just the gin and sweet vermouth so I could see what the Fernet brought.
The gin and sweet vermouth together produced a very bitter note, when I made it again with the Fernet, the sweetness came out.
If you prefer your cocktails sweet, this one may strike you as too dry. Because it’s sort of fruity and sort of spicy, it goes very well with dishes that are sweet and spicy.
Try it with this Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Pork Tenderloin from Baker By Nature, with sriracha sauce, maple syrup, orange and lime.