When I was tippling my way across Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, I spent part of one evening sipping some outstanding drinks at L’Abattoir, a craft cocktail bar in Gastown presided over by the talented Shaun Layton.
Among the drinks: two Hanky Pankys, one barrel-aged, one made up fresh. I wanted to try both at once to get an idea of what was going on in the barrel. And it did prove somewhat educational.
Both cocktails — made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca — were rather heavily Fernet-inflected, of course. Fernet’s the guy you invite to your party, forgetting how loud he always is. Doesn’t he ever shut up? Both were quite good, and both were quite different.
How and why?
The barrel age Hanky Panky was, in short, much rounder and softer — the components had merged and mellowed. It actually seemed more Fernet-forward to me than the fresh version, but even so, the Fernet somehow seemed less prone to poke one in the eye and say “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.” The drink seemed like a long and happy marriage, although one in which the parties have found they no longer have much to talk about over another early-bird dinner at Denny’s.
The freshly made Hanky Panky still had a lot of verve and sass to it. The ingredients were still flirting with one another rather than having settled into a comfortable routine. The drink was much brighter and livelier on the tongue, and kept up its badinage heading down the hatch.
If I had to pick between them for the next round, well... it would depend on the time of day. I actually really liked the barrel-aged — and I would choose it late night drink before shuffling off into the wintery Vancouver mist and back to my hotel. But I found it a drink without much hank, and even precious little pank.
Starting off an evening, or looking for a second wind after being overserved at dinner, I would surely pick the fresh-made Hanky Panky. The friskier younger cousin still knows how to be the life of the party.