Fanciulli – Old Waldorf Bar Days

Certain unmusical memories seem to recall an Italian opera of that name, but Solon thinks the title was bestowed by some wag who wanted to give the boys a new cocktail, and named it after them, as it were, but without their knowing it. That it was not a misprint for “Fanciulla del West” – Puccini’s “Girl of the Golden West” – is rather certain, as its origin considerably antedates the premiere of that of the opera at the Metropolitan, December 10, 1910. Fanciulli is what they say when they mean “the boys” on the banks of the Tiber; also in the environs of Vesuvius. 

One-fourth Fernet Branca 

One-fourth Italian Vermuth 

One-half Whiskey

“La Fanciulla del West” was a Puccini opera, based on an American stage show about a girl caught up in the gold rush to San Francisco. This seems like fairly strange material for a world famous Italian composer, I guess it really underscores the global impact and familiarity with this American centric event, and how romantic this must have been to an outsider. The play and the opera have great characters, a Wells Fargo agent, miners, bandits, card sharks, and of course Nick the bartender at the Polka Saloon, around which the whole first act revolves.

The image below is from the 1905 Broadway production. Fanciulli means ‘boys’ so the image of the bar seemed apt for this drink.

Aside from the weird name it was the inclusion of Fernet that caught my eye, this is a peculiar ingredient, which is tricky to mix (see Toronto 15-01). I used a grapefruit zest to give it a little citrus. The Fernet really dries out and lightens the drink, cutting through the sweetness of the vermouth. I would almost add a little extra sweetness to this to help bring out some more flavour, maybe one-eighth sugar syrup, not more. If you really wanted to Italianise this drink I wonder if grappa would work in place of the whiskey, as it is, it’s a nice nod to the American subject matter.