We’ve all heard of Harry Craddock and the famous Savoy Hotel in London where he held court during Prohibition, but have you ever heard of Ada Coleman? No? Well, for the first five years Craddock was at the Savoy, he worked in the service bar while she was the face of the Savoy. Impressive by today’s standards, but even more so in the 1920s when the heads of bars were decidedly of the male persuasion. She not only kept bar, but also invented her fair share of libations.
Today’s drink for our vintage cocktail project is the Hanky Panky, a drink invented by Coley (as she was know), but not very wisely named. This seems to be a pattern with many long forgotten cocktails and one of the reasons they slip from common access. In this case, the cocktail may appear to Americans to be named for lewd sexual activity, but is actually named for the English definition of the term, black magic. Legend has it that the cocktail was first served to a friend of Noel Coward’s, Sir Charles Hawtry, and upon tasting it he shouted, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!”
And that’s what this libation is…a bit of black magic. It’s very simple with a combination of three liquors: gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca. An inauspicious start, but the real magic hits when the strip of orange peel is added. Combining all these ingredients produces a cocktail with deep savory flavor of herbs, peppers, and a hint of citrus. While it’s not for everyone, this is one of those cocktails to sit, sip, and take in the room from your dark corner of the Savoy bar. Where all the magic truly happens…
1 1/2 oz – gin (we used Miller’s)
1 1/2 oz – sweet vermouth (we used Dolin)
2 dashes – Fernet Branca
Stir the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice until well chilled. Stain into a small cocktail glass. Add a strip of orange peel.