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The Hanky Panky Cocktail: An Iconic Creation by Ada Coleman

The Hanky Panky Cocktail: An Iconic Creation by Ada Coleman


In celebration of the International Women’s Month, we take a look at one of the most iconic cocktails ever created by one of the best-known women bartenders, Ada Coleman. First invented at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, the iconic cocktail is known to use of the Italian bitter herbal amaro liquor, the fernet-branca.

Ada Coleman

Ada Coleman, affectionately called Coleys, is known as one of the most iconic female bartenders in the history of the world, for not only being trained as a bartender, or barmaid as they were once called, but also being a mixologist in the truest sense. She played with flavours and invented her own cocktails through mixing and making twists on classics. More importantly, she was known to have had her work recognised by other bartenders, who were predominantly male at the time, as it was seen as unwomanly for women to work in what was considered a male industry. Her most iconic cocktail till today is the Hanky Panky.

The Bartender’s Handshake

For those who are not in industry, you might have overheard this term being used but may not be acquainted with it, a bartender’s handshake. This is what people in the community use as a token of camaraderie used amongst bartenders and usually comes in the form of a shot, and that shot is the Fernet-Branca, the international bartender’s handshake. However, this practice may change from country to country, with Angostura Bitters being the Malaysian bartender’s handshake.


The fernet-branca is an Italian amaro bitters, with amaros being an herbal liquor commonly used as a digestif. Due to its bitterness and herbal flavour, its considered a ‘love it or hate it’ ingredient, with some either loving it in cocktails, and some wanting to not go anywhere near it. It is this special ingredient that makes the hanky panky what it is.

The Hanky Panky Cocktail

The Hanky Panky cocktail is known for its deep, dark and bitter taste, but is loved for its complexity in flavour and experience. As to the creation of this cocktail by Ada Coleman, it was stated in The People Newspaper in 1925: –

“Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, “Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.” It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.

If you fancy yourself a Hanky Panky, here is the recipe for you to recreate at home: –

1/2 (1 1/2oz.) Italian vermouth
1/2 (1 1/2oz) dry gin
2 dashes Fernet-Branca
Strain into a (4 oz.) cocktail glass
Garnish by squeezing an orange peel over the top

Or of you do not have a home bar that has the ingredients above, hurry yourself down to Marini’s on 57 to savour this cocktail at our bar.

Celebrating Women

At Marini’s on 57, we aim to celebrate everyone, and what better way to toast than to toast these wonderful women from the past. With the struggles that women have faced over the history of humanity, don’t take these luxuries for granted. So the next time you’re at a bar, order a Hanky Panky, the cocktail that breaks stereotypes of what a woman’s drink is or can be.

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