Recipes from the Lab

Fanciulli Cocktail with Fernet Branca Ice Ball

The origin of the Fanciulli Cocktail is somewhat hazy, but the flavor definitely is not. A reference to the Fanciulli Cocktail was published in 1931 book "Old Waldorf Bar Days," by Albert Stevens Crockett, a book that reminisced about just what the name implies, "days at the Waldorf (hotel) bar," before it later merged with the Astoria and became the "Waldorf-Astoria" that we know of today.

In the book, Crockett shared many cocktail recipes of the time and other anecdotes about the hotel. He referenced the cocktail as possibly being tied to an Italian slang term for "the boys," and while that could be true, it is more likely to have been related to a famous composer from the time of the same name, who was in the news when the Fanciulli cocktail came into being.


In the very late 1800s (circa 1897), Francesco Fanciulli gained notoriety for an infamous event with the US Marine band, when he was leading the band after John Philip Sousa left to pursue his concert band aspirations. Fanciulli, who was known for very up-tempo marches, was at one point ordered to play the more "march-able" Sousa marches, instead of his own, and was nearly court-martialed when he refused.  It is no stretch to conclude that the drink, with its bitter Italian liquor, was created to honor that celebrated Italian who had a bitter streak of his own.

Essentially, the Fanciulli Cocktail is a variant of the Manhattan.  A Manhattan can be thought of just as much a style of cocktail as it can be thought of as a drink itself. The Manhattan style cocktail can be made from virtually any liquor and the recipe calls for a 2 to 1 ratio of a liquor (like rye whiskey, for example), and flavoring agent (usually something like sweet vermouth) and few dashes of some bittering agent (like Angotura, as in the original "Manhattan"). In the Fanciulli Cocktail, the original recipe calls for adding the bitter mint-like Fernet Branca directly into the cocktail (as you would the Angostura in the traditional Manhattan), but if you have ever tried Fernet-Branca by itself, you'll know that it can easily overwhelm the flavors with its unique and potent taste. By including it in the ice ball, it slowly releases the flavor, imparting its special character as you drink it.

Mixing glass, bar spoon, strainer, double old-fashioned glass, 1 ½ oz / ½ oz jigger, Whiskey Ice Co spherical ice ball maker

2.5 oz Bourbon
.75 Camparo Antica or other sweet and flavorful vermouth
Fernet-Branca Ice Ball (see instructions below)

To Make Fernet-Branca Ice Ball:
Add 2 ounces of Fernet-Branca to your Whiskey Ice Co Ice Mold and fill to the top of the logo with filtered water. Freeze solid and form an ice ball using your Whiskey Ice Co. Spherical Ice Ball Maker.

Assembling the Drink:
Add bourbon and vermouth to a cocktail mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Place your Fernet-Branca ice ball in the double old-fashioned glass and strain the cocktail into the glass, pouring over the ice ball. As the ice ball slowly melts, the Fernet-Branca is slowly released and the unique flavors are imparted. 

No matter how you choose to enjoy Fernet-Branca's unique and interesting flavor or any cocktail you enjoy, remember to always enjoy responsibly.