Our last visit to London (London Calling: 5 Top London Bars You Can’t Miss!) left us wanting to write about a cocktail we absolutely love, and which was born in one of the most iconic locations of the British capital almost a century ago. Today, we bring you the story of the Hanky Panky.
In order to introduce this drink, it is firstly necessary to present one of the most legendary figures of the cocktail world in Europe. This is the story of Ada “Coley” Coleman, Head Bartender at the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar during the first decades of the 20th century. Starting her service in 1903, she retired in 1926 and was not only the first but also the only female Head Bartender at the Savoy until the date. During her time pouring drinks at the American Bar, she created the Hanky Panky, which over the years has earned its own rightful place among the most famous cocktails of all time.
Ada “Coley” Coleman (Image Source)
While digging into the origins of the drink, we found a 1925 number of The People newspaper quoting Ada Coleman. In it, she stated that the cocktail had been created for Charles Hawtrey, a well-known English actor, director, producer and manager at the time. The article narrates how, after a long day of work, Coley was once asked by Mr. Hawtrey for something with a bit of “punch” in it. When she served him the drink, he exclaimed: “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” The cocktail was thus immediately baptized.
In its article about the Hanky Panky, Gin Foundry supports the theory that Coley mentored Harry Craddock at the Savoy, where they both shared bartending duties for about five years. Due to this, Craddock would have been able to print the recipe for the Hanky Panky in his book The Savoy Cocktail Book, which is still one of the quintessential must-read bartending books to this day. We must therefore thank him for keeping this drink alive, and for enabling us to enjoy it today, anywhere in the world.
The Hanky Panky (Image Source)
To prepare it, we will follow the classic Hanky Panky recipe as printed in The Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock.
- 45 ml Dry Gin
- 45 ml Italian Vermouth
- 2 dashes Fernet Branca
Add the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.
You can also experiment by modifying the listed proportions, for instance by increasing the amount of gin compared to vermouth, or even by slightly adding more Fernet Branca. Would this improve the classic recipe? Well, that is a matter of personal taste. We suggest you try it out and decide for yourself which one suits your palate better. We also strongly recommend that you keep in mind the following three key facts about this cocktail:
- The Hanky Panky was created in the early 1900s in London, at the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar
- Its creator was Ada “Coley” Coleman, first and only female Head Bartender at the American Bar
- The drink was first printed in the must-read The Savoy Cocktail Book
The Hanky Panky is a sweet Martini with bitter undertones. As it turns out, it has become a truly elegant drink, capable of meeting the expectations of even the most sophisticated drinkers. And, naturally, it makes the best out of sweet vermouth. Do you need more reasons to taste it?
My name is Jorge Ferrer, I am a spirits and cocktails lover and a vermouth enthusiast. I earned my MsC in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ESADE Business School and at the moment I hold a Junior Brand Manager position in Brown-Forman. I am planning to market my own vermouth, feel free to reach out or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/jorgeferrer191/ or @jorge_chinaski