Italian Holiday Cocktail Party

Have you ever spent the holidays with Galliano, Strega, or Fernet-Branca?

I was fortunate enough to have a few drinks with them during ICE’s Italian Holiday Cocktail Party recreational class led by A.J. Rathbun. No, they’re not European philosophers, they’re Italian liqueurs. A.J., an award-winning food and entertainment writer, and poet who often travels in Italy briefed us with a little background information on Italian liqueurs. Typically semi-bitter and high in alcohol content, the liqueurs are often mixed with other spirits to make refreshing cocktails.

When it was time to mix drinks, we began the evening by making a Sbagliato, a spin on the classic Negroni. It is made with equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari and topped off with sparkling wine (A.J. recommends Prosecco, as it’s slightly sweeter than Cava or Champagne) and a slice of orange for garnish. Next, A.J. demonstrated how to make La Rana d’Oro, otherwise known as The Golden Frog, a vodka-based drink livened-up with Galliano and Strega, two golden-hued liqueurs that have been distilled in Italy since the late 1800s.

Galliano is a mixture of 30 different herbs including anise and ginger, while Strega is a blend of nearly 70! Our third cocktail of the night was the Ti Penso Sempre, a signature drink of A.J.’s that translates to, “I think of you always.” Composed of brandy and Aperol, the cocktail is sweetened with simple syrup and fresh orange. We finished the class with the Hanky Panky, a gin- and vermouth-based cocktail made with Fernet-Branca, a bitter anise-flavored liqueur from Milan. Here is A.J.’s recipe for the Hanky Panky, a dangerously delicious Italian cocktail to get you in the holiday spirit!


  • Cracked ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Fernet-BrancaWide orange twist, for garnish


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet-Branca. Stir well.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange twist over the glass, and then either drop it in or drape it on the rim of the glass.  

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