The Fanciulli Cocktail

February 9, 2015

In the long line of cocktails allegedly designed to help you recover from your hangover (but which were clearly just excuses to day drink), the Fanciulli cocktail is a lesser-known option that is defined by the use of the unique Fernet Branca.

Photos by ADV Photography

The earliest references recognized for this cocktail are from 1931, where it was thought the name was taken from Italian slang for “the boys.” Alternatively, that was also around the time that composer Francesco Franciulli (an Italian-American) was gaining prominence, and notoriety, in certain circles for his marching band music. It’s conceivable that this riff on the Manhattan was named after him, especially since the main difference here is the replacement of Angostura with the Italian bitter digestif, Fernet Branca.


1 ½ oz rye
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¼ oz Fernet Branca

Add ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir well. Strain into a coupe or martini glass.


The powerful bitter herb combination in the menthol-flavoured Fernet has been described by a long time head of the Wine and Food Society of New York, as the “liqueur of Hades.” Drinking it, he wrote, is “like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer; when you stop it feels great.”

I love that description because it does a great job of illustrating how olden-times people were crazy. Have a hangover? Here, drink this incredibly strong drink straight so you forget about it. It’s the Buckley’s method, I suppose.

I hope that doesn’t scare you away from this cocktail, though. Fernet can definitely dominate any drink it’s in, and no doubt you can smell it immediately in the Fanciulli, but in this small amount, it makes for a very refreshing take on the classic Manhattan.

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