The origins of the Fanciulli cocktail are somewhat dim, but the flavor certainly isn't. It's a Manhattan with a bitter menthol backbone. The drink first appears in the 1931 book, Old Waldorf Bar Days, by Albert Stevens Crockett, and Mr. Crockett states that the name is Italian slang for "the boys." Crockett traces the cocktail to no later than 1910, however, and as Eric Felten showed in his Wall Street Journal column a few years ago, the Fanciulli may have been named for a music composer of some renown.
The original recipe calls for bourbon; rye works too. But whichever you choose, pick a strong whiskey, something that will stand up to the fernet. I'd go with Bulleit or Wild Turkey 101, if you're choosing bourbon.
As for the vermouth, Felten suggests something with backbone: Vya or Punt E Mes, he recommends. He was writing before Carpano Antica was fairly widely available, so I'd add that suggestion to his. You'll certainly want something a little punchier than your standard sweet vermouths.
About the author: Michael Dietsch lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn. A daughter is pending and may be here by the time you read this. His first book, Shrubs, is due in 2014. You can reach him on twitter at @dietsch.
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- 1 1/2 ounce bourbon or rye
- 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
Pour the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until outside of mixing glass is very cold to touch, about 15 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.