The Hanky-Panky

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A perfect drink for autumn evenings, this cocktail is a rarity in that it comes with dialogue attached. Whenever he was feeling below par, the distinguished stage actor Sir Charles Hawtrey (not to be confused with the Charles Hawtrey who was Private Widdle in Carry On Up the Khyber) would pop into the Savoy’s American Bar for a bracer. “Coley, I am tired,” he once said. “Give me something with a bit of punch in it.” Coley was Ada Coleman, a fixture in the bar from 1903-1923, who, despite the rigid sexual demarcation of the era, ended up as head barman. Her response was this sweet martini fortified with a splat of Fernet Branca. “By Jove!” declared the thesp. “That is the real hanky-panky.” So the cocktail was christened, doubtless giving rise to countless double-entendres by Edwardian mashers. “Can I have some hanky-panky?” etc. The drink is a hazy mahogany in colour, in keeping with the robust solidity of the era. As Sir Charles correctly noted, the substantial, sherry-like HP is a first-rate restorative. By chance, I allowed mine to warm up and it was still most palatable.

Christopher Hirst

45ml gin

45ml sweet (red) vermouth

2 dashes Fernet Branca, though Angostura also works well

Shake vigorously with whole ice cubes. Strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze ribbon of orange peel over drink and drop in.