Over a hundred years ago a pioneering woman was taking on new roles, breaking cultural barriers and leaving her mark on history. No, we are not talking about Sarah Bernhardt this time; we are talking about Ada Coleman, the inventor and inspiration behind the Goodman’s Signature Cocktail for Bernhardt/Hamlet: The Hanky-Panky.
The History of Hanky-Panky:
The year is 1903. Ada “Coley” Coleman has risen to the position of Head Bartender of the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel of central London. As one of the first and only women to hold the position in an already male-dominated profession, Coleman made great strides to cement herself as a Savoy staple and grew to become a well-loved “impresario” of the American Bar. According to Cocktail historian Ted Hughes “Not only was Coley…a woman in the world of male bartenders, it was she who made the bar famous.”
Coleman garnered a reputation as a talented bartender and hostess. Her tenure at the Savoy Hotel was marked by the company of such affluent clientele as Charles, Prince of Whales, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, and notable comedic actor Sir Charles Henry Hawtrey. Hawtrey, a regular occupant of one of Coleman’s bar stools, was “one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew” according to her.
“It was for [Hawtrey] that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail,” Coleman said. “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! This is the real hanky-panky!”
The name “Hanky-Panky” (meaning ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ at the time) stuck and the gin based drink has been served worldwide ever since. In fact, in 2015 the Hanky-Panky was listed by Drinks International as one of the top 50 best-selling cocktails. Coleman is remembered as an ‘iconic legend’ in the bar tending world. She has been dubbed by some as “The Queen of Cocktail Mixers,” and more importantly is one of the first women to be recognized professionally as a mixologist.
The Goodman Recipe:
1.5oz Koval Gin
1.50oz Sweet Vermouth
.25oz Fernet Branca
Q&A with Sean Grosshans – Lounge Lead, Goodman Theatre
What is the process of picking a Goodman Signature Cocktail?
Well first off, it really depends on the show content and whether we feel like a cocktail inspired by that show is appropriate.
If a show works for us to make a drink for, then I usually go back to the text, finding lines, mentions of certain drinks, etc. or maybe I come up with an awesome pun based name (we love puns here). For example, in Winter’s Tale there is a famous stage direction—“Exit pursued by a Bear.”—So I took that and created the cocktail “Exit pursued by a Berry,” which was Raspberry Vodka and House made Meyer Lemon Shrub. Making the drinks is the fun creative part of my job.
What inspired you to offer the Hanky-Panky for Bernhardt/Hamlet?
I was inspired by Sarah Bernhardt herself. She was ahead of her time, pushing for equal rights and opportunities for women. One of my longtime favorite classic cocktails is the Hanky-Panky, so, as soon as I started to think about a cocktail to feature, the Hanky-Panky was the first to come to mind. I knew it was created by Ada Coleman (also ahead of her time) the first female head bartender to be recognized for creating a cocktail.
When and where can patrons get a Hanky-Panky?
You can get a Hanky-Panky at any of the Goodman concession bars in the lobby an hour before curtain and during intermission.
How to Make a Hanky-Panky: