Left Coast Libations Cocktail of the Day: 606

After the typical, eye-roll-causing procrastination between the last post and now, we finally resume with a couple more of the cocktail featured on the menu at the Varnish during the Left Coast Libations book release party … two months ago. (Well, good things come to those who wait, I hope.)

This one comes from bartender Neyah White, who’s been behind the stick for many years and made a particular impact on the San Francisco cocktail scene before he decided to take a gig traveling the world, teaching folks about the wonders of Japanese whisky. I finally met Neyah a few months back at a local bartenders’ gathering, where we all knocked back some fine whisky and astonishing Japanese whisky-based cocktails (oh my, that Yamazaki 18 year Old Fashioned … oh my). He’s a great guy, and I hope we get to knock back a few more.

This is one of Neyah’s drinks featured in the book, which was on the menu at the party. It’s closely related to Ada “Coley” Coleman’s classic Hanky Panky cocktail from her stint as head of the bar at the Savoy Hotel in the early 1900s; her original recipe is half gin, half sweet vermouth with 2 dashes of Fernet Branca. A more recent version by Ted Haigh upped the gin, lowered the vermouth and brought the Fernet up to 1/4 ounce. This is an entirely different drink though, even if you think of genever as “Dutch gin” (which I think is really a misnomer). To me genever is more like whisky than gin, with that wonderful maltiness bringing a body and flavor that’s miles removed from actual gins like a London dry.

This is also a hefty dose of Fernet Branca in a cocktail, and that’s one difficult ingredient to work with. It doesn’t like to play with others, and has a tendency to completely take over unless it’s used in very small quantities. We’ve got a whole tablespoon of the stuff here, but it’s properly tempered — the thick maltiness of the genever reins it in, the vermouth smooths it out and they both provide a strong enough counterpoint (especially if you use a powerful vermouth like Carpano Antica). Make sure you don’t use a jonge style genever, which is light and has a minimum amount of maltwine in its base (5% or less). You’ll want an oude style genever, and our favorite these days (and the easiest to find) is Bols Genever. I can’t wait to try this with an oude with a bit of age on it, or with a corenwijn

This drink is a whoop upside the head, but in the nicest possible way.

(by Neyah White)

1-1/2 ounces genever (our favorite is Bols Genever).
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca.

Stir with cracked ice for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

The flaming of the orange peel is an optional step; Neyah doesn’t specify this in the book but Chris was making them this way at The Varnish. I do enjoy the flavor of caramelized orange oil, and of course I love the light show. Enjoy it either way.


4 Responses to “Left Coast Libations Cocktail of the Day: 606”

  1. Nathan said:

    Dec 13, 10 at 6:47 am

    Heh. I always thought of the 606 as a variation on the Negroni due to the build, but the Hanky Panky is probably a better comparison to convey the resulting flavor.

  2. Chuck said:

    Dec 13, 10 at 12:00 pm

    A Hankygroni! (Worst. Cocktail. Name. EVER.)

  3. NW said:

    Dec 16, 10 at 1:06 am

    I love that my drink is associated with the Negroni and the Hanky Panky, very cool to be thought of in such company. However, it is undeserved.

    This drink was not thought about, pondered or envisioned. During the the launch of Bols Genever, a few of us were invited behind the bar at Harry’s in Amsterdam one night and this was the first thing I could think of.

    It is an accident, pure and simple.

  4. Chuck said:

    Dec 16, 10 at 11:27 am

    Hey Neyah! A very happy accident then. I suspect a lot of good drinks had similar origins. Cheers!