Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to Make a Fanciulli Cocktail

Obscure classic cocktails with one ingredient that makes it stray from the mainstream are somewhat of a Forte for me. That seems to be the case lately at least. And who am I to deny the greatness of obscure classics? Much like the classic automobiles, cocktails of yesteryear seem to have an air of elegance about them. They manage to pull off this perfect combination of style and practicality which has been lost in history until recently. At times they portray rustic simplicity and at other times flamboyant post modernism. They seemed to disappear with the rise of vodka and hi-ball culture, but have been making a come back with the return of the small business and craft artisan scenes.

(You'll need some version of these to make a Fanciulli.)
This brings us full circle to the Fanciulli, like the Toronto, a whiskey cocktail featuring Fernet Branca. Where it differs from the Toronto is that like a Manhattan, it is cut back by sweet vermouth rather than simple syrup. Unlike the Manhattan, Fernet plays stand in for Angostura bitters. The results are fantastic. A Manhattan with a menthol kick to the jowels. When you make it, make sure to use a whisky that can go toe to toe with fernet.

Like many cocktails of the time, the origins are fuzzy. It first appeared in print in 1935, in Old Waldorf Days, where Albert Stevens Crocket references an origin earlier than 1910, and the name being Italian slang for "the boys". Another origin story credits the name to Francesco Fanciulli, who led the US Marine Corps band in the 1890s. The Straight Up, reports that Fernet 's abrasiveness earned the cocktail the name, after Fanciulli who was argumentative and eventually court-martialed. Fanciulli was the successor of John Phillip Sousa, and so struggled to stand up to the shadow of his predecessor.

Whatever the case, the cocktail possesses that magical charm that many classics do. Fernet works wonders on the palette time and time again, and the Fanciulli is another addition to the list of obscure greatness from the late 1800s and early 1900s. It's somewhat of a misfit cocktail, and so I recommend indulging in a misfit way; sans garnish and in a glass too tall.

The Fanciulli
1 1/2 oz Whiskey
1/2 oz sweet Vermouth
2 dashes of Fernet Branca 

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