Remember that really bad Tommy James and the Shondells song? This has nothing to do with it. A few months ago, Jasper's began offering cocktails on tap, starting with a Negroni. Made in a large batch and placed in a keg, the bar is able to pour consistent glasses of the spectacular Campari cocktail night after night. This is especially helpful on a busy night when a good cocktail needs to be in your hand without the requisite 5-minute "craft cocktail" wait.
Then bar manager Kevin Diedrich decided to up the ante by also putting a Hanky Panky on tap, a cocktail made with a little splash of San Francisco urine, a.k.a. Fernet Branca. Made from equal parts of Tanqueray gin and bar-made sweet vermouth, it's a simple drink in construction, but surprisingly complex in flavor.
The Hanky Panky, like its Negroni cousin, is also boozy, which is something oft desired in a good cocktail, especially on a dark or hazy evening. If you want something less boozy, then perhaps popping your collar or grabbing your shacker bag and heading down to a Marina bar to order something made with Red Bull, soda water, or has the word "lite" in the product name is more your style.
(But I digest, having just snacked on some Boccalone nduja while penning that last paragraph.) Diedrich, the mad tender of the bar he is, decided to take the remainder of his batch made Hanky Panky and toss it into a Hudon Rye barrel, where he let it sit for six weeks. Usually, sticking something in a small, dark place for an extended period of time makes it angry, perhaps even uncontrollably violent and stinky, but not so with the Hanky Panky. Instead, it patiently bides its time, marking the passing days with notches on its wooden prison, perhaps reading The PDT Cocktail Book, doing push-ups and sit-ups, or even helping Mr. Bates escape an attempted framing by his bunkmate. Once released, gone is the sharply bitter aftertaste of the usual Hanky Panky, transformed into a mild bitter kick. The cocktail becomes rounder, greener, and mellowed allowing some of its sweetness to come out more -- this is a reformed cocktail, more of a Henry Panky.
When you first move the glass to your face, the smell of the barrel hits your nose, and as you drink it, the floral flavors and sweetness from the gin and vermouth come out initially, elevated by the newly added wooden flavor which eventually takes over and slowly retreats leaving you with a light, mellowed, herbaceous kiss from the Fernet. The aged version of the Hanky Panky is a treat, but like all good things, it is not long for this world, especially since only a baby barrel amount was made. The good news? You won't find it on the printed Jasper's menu, so only people who know it exists can order it. The bad news? Everyone reading this now knows it exists.