Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Hanky Panky Cocktail
The Hanky Panky Cocktail, no doubt named for the result of imbibing too many of ’em.

I have a small but growing collection of amari - Italian bitter liqueurs - in my little Lacquer Liquor Locker. Among them you will find the sweetish Amaro Montenegro and Amaro Ramazzotti, the balanced Averna, the bright red Campari, and the powerful Fernet Branca. Generally, I will drink these bad boys neat after a large meal, but they also work very well as perprandial tipples when served on the rocks.

But can you make cocktails out of ’em? Sure you can. Any time you want a bitter or bittersweet flavor note in your Cocktaily Symphony, an amaro might be just the ticket. What would a Negroni be without Campari, after all?

Fernet Branca is one of the more assertive amari, with overtones of menthol and licorice and with mysterious bitter components providing a nuanced background. I’ve known people who would drink it by the tumblerful, mixed with nothing but ice - a bracing refreshment that is absolutely not for the faint of heart. In Argentina, it is popular mixed with Coca-Cola, of all things. (I’ve tried it that way, and it does improve the Coke.) But until now, I have not used Fernet Branca as a cocktail component.

Serious Eats just put out a whole list of cocktails containing Fernet, and I couldn’t resist trying a couple. The Fanciulli Cocktail, which combines rye, sweet vermouth, and Fernet, did not impress me. But the unfortunately named Hanky Panky, a combination of gin and sweet vermouth with just a couple of dashes of Fernet to provide a mentholated kick, turned out to be exceptional. Holy crap, this was terrific! Botanical, bitter, and complicated, the Hanky Panky is a drink for the thinking man or woman.

I made mine with two ounces of The Botanist gin, two ounces of Carpano Antica vermouth, and about a quarter-ounce of Fernet. Carpano is a bittersweetish vermouth that more than holds up its end of the bargain here, so my dose of Fernet was a bit on the high side. (Punt e Mes would probably also work well.) Perfect, sez I.

I need to feed a few of these to The Missus. Perhaps after some Hanky Panky, she’ll be in the mood for some more Hanky Panky.


LeeAnn said...

Lacquer Liquor Locker...
Not often you get to coin your own tongue-twister. Nicely done.

Elisson said...

I wish I could claim coinage credit, LeeAnn, but I cannot.

The phrase comes from an old piece of light verse - "The Lacquer Liquor Locker" - by one David McCord. Here's the first stanza:

Now once upon a time the King of Astrakhan, at that,
Was sitting on his throne because his throne was where he sat;
And comfortably beside him, and magnificently stocked,
Was a lacquer liquor locker which a liquor lackey locked.