Classic: Hanky Panky

I am obsessed. I have a strange love affair with Fernet, and although I am by no means alone on this, I am certainly in the minority.

Fernet falls into the larger Amaro/Bitter liqueurs family; generally bittersweet, herbaceous, with hints of citrus, spices, and bitter, such as Gentian or China.

Here in Ottawa, Fernet Branca is the most accessible of the Fernets. The taste is aggressively bitter, very minty, and almost medicinal compared to other more citrus-forward Amaros, such as Amaro Nonino and Amaro Montenegro.

Though most Amari hail from Europe, the US also has a very good entry – Fernet Francisco. It’s an excellent addition and I would definitely recommend it. Slightly milder than its relatives, it’s more approachable, and pairs very well in cocktails.


Not too long ago, I shared Fernet Branca with some colleagues on two different occasions. They all hated it, vowed to never drink it again, and cursed me for even mentioning it. I probably should have started them off with a Toronto Cocktail or a Fanciulli.

Today, I’m here to introduce you to another tasty addition to the Fernet family and arguably the most prolific of them all; the Hanky Panky.


1 ½ oz gin
1 ½ oz sweet vermouth
3 dashes Fernet (I prefer a ½ oz – Yes, I’m hardcore)
Orange zest twist

In a mixing glass, add all liquids and stir well to chill and combine. Strain into a coupe or over a large ice rock in an old fashioned glass. Zest a large piece of orange peel, twist to express the oils, and drop into the glass. Enjoy.


Now you have the holy trinity of Fernet cocktails in your arsenal. Don’t be surprised if it grows on you as much as it has on me, but be warned that your friends may not share your tastes – at least initially.

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