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Sophisticated and intriguing, the Hanky Panky cocktail is a full-flavored drink featuring gin, Fernet-Branca and sweet vermouth.

Hanky panky cocktail

Here’s a sophisticated cocktail that will have all your friends talking about it: the Hanky Panky cocktail! It’s complex and nuanced, with a smooth flavor perfect for sipping. The star here is Fernet-Branca, an Italian bitter that adds an herbal punch. The cocktail is perfectly balanced: a little sweet and a little bitter, which makes it irresistible. Here’s how to make it, and a little more about the origin of the name. Because, what’s more fun than ordering a “Hanky Panky”?

What’s a Hanky Panky cocktail?

The Hanky Panky cocktail is a sweet gin martini, balanced between sweet, bitter and herbal flavors. It’s like the gin version of a Toronto, which is made with whiskey. Personally I prefer the Hanky Panky to the Toronto; I find it easier to drink (and I’m partial to gin cocktails). It’s on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition. Here’s what’s in a Hanky Panky cocktail:

  • Gin
  • Sweet vermouth
  • Fernet-Branca liqueur
Hanky Panky cocktail

How the Hanky Panky got its name

There are so many intriguing cocktail names: Tom Collins, Greyhound, Salty Dog, Toronto… And if you’re anything like me, you want to know the back story! The Hanky Panky cocktail was invented by a famous woman bartender in the 1920’s named Ada Coleman, known as “Coley.” Coley worked at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel. She invented this cocktail for a famous actor (named Sir Charles Hawtrey). Apparently when he first tasted it, he exclaimed “By Jove! That is the real hanky panky!” A very 1920’s way of saying, “Dang, this drink is good.”


What is Fernet-Branca?

Is it worth grabbing a bottle of Fernet-Branca for this Hanky Panky cocktail? Absolutely. Fernet-Branca is an Italian bitter: a liqueur made with a mix of herbs and spices. It has a higher alcohol content than most bitters: 40 to 45% alcohol. You can use a splash in cocktails of all kinds, stir it into a soda, or even drink it straight (as bartenders do).

Fernet is quite the trend that only seems to be going up. It adds intrigue, with a bitter, sweet, and herbaceous flavor all at once. Plus, you can use it to make other Fernet Branca cocktails like a Toronto or Fernet Sour. How to pronounce it? It’s Italian, so you say “Fair-net brahn-ka”. Resist the temptation to make it French and say Fair-nay.

Do I need a cocktail mixing glass?

This Hanky Panky cocktail is made in a cocktail mixing glass. Most of our cocktail recipes are s in a shaken in a cocktail shaker or mixed right in the cocktail glass. Why use a cocktail mixing glass here? Do you really need one?

  • A cocktail mixing glass is used for “stirred” cocktails that are served sans ice. Stirred cocktails are less diluted than shaken, because shaking makes the ice melt faster. If a stirred cocktail is served with ice you can mix it right in the glass. But because the Hanky Panky is not served with ice, you stir it in a mixing glass.
  • You can use a cocktail mixing glass OR any other glass or container. You can definitely use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. But if you want to look like someone who knows their cocktails, grab yourself a cocktail mixing glass. (Plus, it just looks cool.)
Hanky Panky cocktail

How to make an orange twist

The Hanky Panky is garnished with an orange twist. But how to make it? I’m terrible at cute little garnishes, but that’s where Alex comes in! He figured out a way to make a citrus twist garnish using no special tools. The method was developed for a lemon twist, but it works for oranges too. Head to How to Make a Lemon Twist.

When to serve a Hanky Panky cocktail

The Hanky Panky cocktail is a sophisticated and complex gin cocktail. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Hanky panky cocktail

Hanky Panky Cocktail

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Sophisticated and intriguing, the Hanky Panky cocktail is a full-flavored drink featuring gin, Fernet-Branca and sweet vermouth.


  • 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) gin
  • 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) sweet vermouth
  • ½ teaspoon Fernet-Branca
  • For the garnish: Orange twist


  1. Combine the gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet-Branca in cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into a glass. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.
  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktail

Keywords: Hanky Panky cocktail

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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