Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Fanciulli Cocktail

The Faniulli Cocktail

This classic charmer is essentially a Manhattan made with Fernet-Branca

The Manhattan Cocktail is one of our favorites. It’s a smooth combo of rye or bourbon and sweet (Italian) vermouth, spiced up with Angostura bitters.

Well, replace the bitters with Fernet-Branca (an Italian liqueur), and you have the Fanciulli Cocktail. This drink is largely forgotten today, but it seems to have been quite popular in pre-Prohibition America.

Time for a revival, no? Especially since the the Fanciulli’s spicy flavor makes it perfect for winter sipping.

We like to serve the Fanciulli as a predinner drink, though it’s great any time of the day. Well, maybe not for breakfast. But you know what we mean.



The Faniulli Cocktail

Recipe: The Fanciulli Cocktail

A recipe for the Fanciulli was first published in the 1931 edition of Old Waldorf Bar Days. But cocktail enthusiast Eric Felten says the drink goes back much further (we first learned about this drink from a 2009 article by Felten in the Wall Street Journal). You’ll find more history on this drink in the Notes.

The Fanciulli requires Fernet-Branca, an Italian bitter herbal liqueur (i.e., an amaro) that’s sometimes consumed neat as a digestif. Because its flavor is so strong, some people have used it as a morning-after pick-me-up (its powerful menthol-fueled flavor definitely will jolt you awake; so maybe you could drink the Fanciulli for breakfast after all). Because the flavor is so powerful, you need to use only a small quantity of Fernet-Branca in a cocktail; as is the case with this drink, it often replaces bitters.

Fernet-Branca has become rather trendy over the past decade, so you should be able to find it in any liquor store (it’ll be shelved in the same section as vermouth).

You can serve this drink either “up” in a cocktail glass, or over the rocks in an Old-Fashioned glass. We prefer the up version, but it’s good either way.

This recipe takes under 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.

Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces bourbon or rye (see Notes)
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth (Italian red vermouth; see Notes)
  • ¼ to ½ ounce Fernet-Branca (to taste; start with ¼ ounce; see Notes)
  • maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
     
Procedure
  1. Add all the ingredients (except garnish) to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled). Garnish with a maraschino cherry, if you wish, and serve.
The Faniulli Cocktail

Notes
  • Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces air bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. (That doesn’t matter when some of the ingredients are opaque – think citrus juice). 
  • Having said that, let us make one thing clear (so to speak): Cocktail rules exist to be broken. So shake away if that’s your preference.
  • The original formula for this drink was 2 parts bourbon, plus 1 part each sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca. Way too much amaro for us! Most bartenders today make the drink with just ¼ ounce of Fernet-Branca. 
  • You may prefer a bit more, though (we sometimes add up to ½ ounce Fernet-Branca). Feel free to experiment, then make this drink to your own taste.
  • Any good Italian (sweet) vermouth will work in this cocktail. There are several good ones available in liquor stores – so feel free to experiment with this element, too. We’ve used the Martini and Rossi brand, as well as Punt e Mes (which is a bit less sweet; definitely use only ¼ ounce of Fernet-Branca with this). At a restaurant, we once had a Fanciulli made with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and that was quite good.
  • This drink originally was made with bourbon, though many people like to use rye. We think bourbon works better. Our favorite bourbon for cocktails is Evan Williams, which is a bit on the dry side, as bourbons go. Old Grand-Dad 100 proof also works really well in this drink (and is a bit sweeter).
  • We’ve mentioned several brand names, so let’s repeat our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial, and buy all our own booze. We recommend only what we like. No one compensates us for mentioning a brand.
  • How did The Fanciulli Cocktail get its name? No one knows. The word fanciulli means “boys” or “children” in Italian.
  • Eric Felten notes that The Fanciulli Cocktail probably was created in the early years of the 20th century, when a composer named Francesco Fanciulli was well known. Fanciulli, an Italian immigrant to the US, wrote comic operas. He also served as leader of the U.S. Marine Band during the 1890s, composing numerous marches (now mostly forgotten). 
  • So was the drink named after him? Who knows? All we know for sure is that it’s really good.
The Faniulli Cocktail

Old Dogs, New Tricks

“Nice,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping her drink. “This is how I like to ring in the New Year.”

“The Fernet-Branca sets off some fireworks all on its own,” I said.

“Glad to meet you, Fernet-Branca,” said Mrs K R, holding up her glass. “Shall we resolve to spend more time with you in the coming year?”

Yup. That’s one resolution we can keep.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Manhattan Cocktail
Martini Cocktail
Pegu Club Cocktail
Martinez Cocktail
Sazerac Cocktail
Negreoni Cocktail
Or check out the index for more

100 comments:

  1. I have never heard of or had this fanciulli drink before...sounds fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Angie, it's a good one! It's become one of our favorites. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. This is my kind of drink! I love bourbon and I recently had a digestif at a restaurant and fell in love with it. The flavors were intoxicating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura, bourbon is so nice, isn't it? And adding a touch of Fernet-Branca to it makes it magic! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  3. Great little bit of history about this cocktail! I wonder if it ever appeared in any fictional accounts of drinking.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mae, I've seen the Fanciulli mentioned in fiction, although that's been quite awhile ago. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  4. Love the story on this drink! Plus, it's beautiful!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alyssa, cocktail stories are so interesting, aren't they? And this really is a pretty drink. Tasty, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  5. Lovely photo, John- plus this cocktail looks like just the thing to usher in 2017- we'll certainly need some zing for this coming year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Fran, this drink definitely has zing! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  6. Fernet-Branca is new to me and so is the Fanciulli! This is the way to begin the New Year, a little something new and tasty too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Deb, always good to try new things! Particularly when they're tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  7. I think I need to change my breakfast routine and get my hands on some Fernet-Branca for this cocktail. Speakeasy clubs are so popular they shoudl make this pre-pohibition recipe. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Evelyne,look around at some of those speakeasy cocktail menus and I'll bet you'll find this drink. I'm seeing it a lot more than I did a few years ago. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  8. My girlfriend introduced me to Fernet - Blanca as a digestive years ago in Italy and I loved it. Your cocktail looks great, Prost!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gerlinde, good stuff, isn't it? And it's lovely in this drink! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. Hi Lizzy, Happy New Year! And thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  10. Boy I wish I had my own bartender like Mrs. Riffs! What an interesting cocktail. I love that I learn something new every time I stop by! Hope you had a lovely holiday - Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tricia, it's fun being Mrs KR's bartender! :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  11. Love the color, sounds delicious!! Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cheri, it's a terrific drink -- wonderful flavor. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  12. Did I hear "fanciulli cocktail for breakfast"? I'm pretty sure I did. Happy new year, John!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ala, trust those voices! :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  13. Oh heck - why not for breakfast? I'm semi-retired. :) Have never heard of the faniculli, but if it's that's close to being a Manhattan, then I'm sure I would enjoy it.

    Happy New Year Mr. and Mrs. KR!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi MJ, retirement is good! We're loving it. So drinks for breakfast all around! :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  14. Wow, John! Another gorgeous cocktail! I have never had a Manhatten! And I've definitely never tried Fernet Branca. But you've got my attention with this beauty. I always love your cocktail photos...so well done. (I struggle with shooting beverages!) I hope you and Mrs. KR have a wonderful, healthy and happy year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anne, if you like bourbon, this is worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  15. A liqueur I've never heard of but this cocktail is gorgeous to look at and I'm dying for a taste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maureen, I'll bet Fernet-Branca is pretty available in Australia. It used to be hard to find in the US, but it's everywhere now. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  16. Gorgeous! With the big chill headed our way, one of these would hit the spot! Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz, it's COLD! You may need two of these. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  17. It's amusing how this very masculine drink (what with all the very potent alcohol) gets a girly cherry as a garnish. But I like the juxtaposition. Opposites attract, after all, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carolyn, an orange twist works well too, but the cherry tastes better. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  18. Looks like such a great drink to start the year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Peachy, it's a good one! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  19. Replies
    1. Hi Natalia, isn't this nice? So good! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  20. I love these old drink recipes. Just yesterday at work we were talking about a Manhattan. I've never had one, so with this post coming through means it's a must. I've never heard of fernet-branca, but I bet I can find it. Cheers to you John, here's to a delicious 2017.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lea Ann, the Manhattan is one of the best drinks ever! Definitely worth trying. As is this. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  21. That is a beauty ready to be sipped... I am a big fan of your cocktail photography!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, isn't this pretty? And so good! Glad you like the photos. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  22. I'm surprised this riff on a Manhattan doesn't have an NYC neighborhood name. So many do: Brooklyn, Redhook, Bensonhurst, Greenpoint etc. Good booze should not be limited by geography. GREG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Greg, I hadn't thought of that! But you're right. I'll drink this whatever its name! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  23. Always like the history info associated with your cocktails John. Looks like a tasty drink to start the year. Happy new year wishing you all the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amira, we know many of our readers don't drink, so always try to have something interesting for them to read, too. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  24. Is it just me or does everyone feel ever so swish when cocktail drinking, I like the strong ingredients for this one, kinda an elegant manly cocktail. Can cocktails have a gender!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anna, it's all about the glass. :-) You'd like this -- really tasty. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  25. I really like Manhattans and with Fernet I bet I'd *love* this. Going to bookmark this for a Saturday evening tipple!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Frank, Fernet adds really nice flavor to a Manhattan. You would indeed "love" it! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  26. I love Manhattans. It was my first legal drink, and I've been a devotee ever since. So, I imagine I'd like to try a fanciulli. But how should I ask for it? Does the C sound like an S or like a CH?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jeff, fan-CHU-le. Or at least that's the way I pronounce it -- bartenders figure it out! You'll like this -- a wonderful drink. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  27. I think Manservant may actualy have some of this stashed away. Must be sure to pass him this recipe. Perfect for the boy in him! Happy New Year John!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Abbe, Manservant will really like this! Assuming he likes Manhattans, that is. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  28. WOW! This was a new cocktail to me. I love a good manhattan, so I am intrigued. Thanks for the pronunciation tip in the last comment! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cakespy, this isn't that popular of a cocktail, alas, although it's definitely one that a lot of craft cocktail bars have taken to in the last few years. It's good! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  29. This would be a cocktail for my taste! Sounds so great, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cecilia, enjoy! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  30. Replies
    1. Hi Pamela, ours too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  31. What a great cocktail to welcome new year! Happy New Year to you and your family!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katerina, isn't this nice? SO tasty! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  32. If this drink tastes as good as you've made it look, it must be amazing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris, it's a wonderful drink! Terrific flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  33. I actually don't drink alcohol at all but I wouldn't say no to the fanciulli cocktail, I believe :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Agness, as a world traveler you have to know that sometimes you just have to let the force -- or the faniculi -- be with you. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  34. I don't drink but always enjoy reading your posts on drinks and cocktails :) Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Taruna, we know a lot of our readers don't drink, so we always try to share some interesting tidbits of info to keep everyone entertained. Plus drinks are pretty! And always fun to look at. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  35. Definitely a nice resolution John and Mrs. KR!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debra, definitely one we'll be keeping! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  36. What a Beautiful looking drink! Perfect to welcome the New year with. May your resolution stay strong!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ansh, no worries about the strength of our resolution! Well, at least this year. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  37. What a pretty cocktail, John. I love how you take us back in time with these fancy libations. I'm not a big fan of the Manhattan, mind you, I've only ever tasted it once at a tail gate in Chicago, so it may not have been the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eva, you might want to give the Manhattan another try! A tailgate doesn't seem like the ideal environment to sample it -- try it as a predinner drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  38. Happy New Year! Some resolutions are easier to keep than others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth, we like the easy ones. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  39. It's certainly very festive looking. I love the colour. What a wonderful resolution xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charlie, it's a great drink -- had one again last night. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  40. Lovely cocktails! Happy New Year to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy, thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  41. This looks like the perfect cocktail to enjoy on a snowy day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pamela, yup, it'd be nice curling up with one of these and watching the snow accumulate. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  42. Looks like a winner to me as usual! Happy new year :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary, it's a good one! :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  43. Mmmmm good! It looks pretty and tasty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam, definitely yes to both pretty and tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  44. Perfect cocktail to sit back, sip and enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rahul, it's a very relaxing drink! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  45. This definitely looks and sounds like a drink that will warm a person up, John! Your photos are perfect!! Happy New Year! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marcelle, this is a nice warming drink! And refreshing at the same time. :-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete
  46. I think it is okay to have one on your birthday morning - assuming of course, that you are not working or driving. Then it is perfectly acceptable to have a quick shot (limoncello seems to be the Italian flavour for brekkie appertifs) and I love your pretty concoction John, this is so classy 8)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Merryn, and of course it's someone birthday every day, right? And we all have to join in the celebration. :D Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  47. It seems what is old is new again…you always come up with a cocktail most of us haven't heard of, good research. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, cocktail research is FUN. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  48. What a great colour, definitely worth adding the cherry for decoration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Caroline, an orange twist is a good garnish too, but we always opt for the cherry -- so pretty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  49. Maybe I do need one for breakfast to fuel this morning honey do list... LOL Gorgeous cocktail and wishing you and Mrs Riff a FAB 2017!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bobbi, that'd be a good reason to have one for breakfast. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  50. I just had a Manhattan last weekend! If I love those and I know I will love this! Happy new year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ashley, Manhattans are great, aren't they? You'll love this! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!

      Delete