The Art of the Three Martini Lunch and the Recipe for a Hanky Panky

With the last season of Mad Men underway, we figured it was time to get back on the Don Draper train by brushing off productivity in exchange for social deviance and alcohol indulgence. Our first target: the three martini lunch. A classic tradition of old school ad execs, politicos and the bourgeoisie — once looked up to in our business culture, now an antiquated idea that has long-diminished into the ether of social norms gone bad.

How very unfortunate, indeed.


Thankfully, we didn’t have to look far to find the right opportunity (justification) to blow off a perfectly good workday and drink lavishly in the middle of a spring afternoon. Plymouth Gin swept in to the rescue (thanks Plymouth!); serving up a very classy three martini lunchtime affair with Brand Ambassador Nick Van Tiel at Boston’s renowned No. 9 Park restaurant. How could we possibly say no?

The lunch was, of course, filled with fine food, drink, white tablecloths and gentlemanly chatter – all staples of a Mad Men-esque lunch. Unfortunately, our goal of being completely unproductive while indulging in spirit fell short. We learned things. Like for instance, that the three martini lunch actually dates back to the 1920’s and 30’s. Yes, society’s finest were chumming it up on multi-boozed affairs well before the Mad Men took center stage.


On the other hand, martinis of yore were a bit more “civilized” (served in glasses about half the size of current ones) than the oversized martinis you’ll see today. This was to ensure that drinkers had an icy cold beverage all the way through (quite important to a true martini drinker). And perhaps, to insure that the gentlemanly fellows could make their way back into the office somewhat coherent.

Plymouth Gin, like the three martini lunch, has a long and storied past as well. The distillery was started in 1793 under the name of Coates & Co in the backyard of the Royal Navy. By 1850 Coates & Co was supplying the Navy with 1,000 barrels of Navy Strength gin a year and it was traditional for all newly commissioned Navy vessels to receive a “Plymouth Gin Commissioning kit.” We’re not exactly sure what that is, but it sounds like something we need to get our hands on.


In somewhat more recent years (1896), the first ever recipe for a dry martini specified Plymouth Gin (in Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them) and by the 1930’s Plymouth Gin was well known amongst the cocktail type. It is also the only gin still around today to be named in numerous recipes in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book (the bible of mixology).

These days, Plymouth Gin (renamed in 2004) is the only gin distillery operating within the protected geographical indication of Plymouth, England. The gin produced is uniquely smooth, some say because of the use of local Dartmoor water, and is relatively mild on botanicals. While one could certainly enjoy sipping the gin on the rocks or neat, Van Tiel said Plymouth’s strength was actually how well it works in cocktails.


This (and the talent of Van Tiel and No. 9 Park’s bar staff) was apparent in our favorite martini of the three martini lunch – the Hanky Panky (recipe below). Made with Fernet and Vermouth, this 1920’s cocktail has a sweetness from the Vermouth that is tempered with the Fernet. It’s dark and brooding in color, and has the warmth and body that’s perfect to take the chill right out of a cool spring night.

This delicious martini was further enhanced by No. 9 Park’s outstanding coconut cake with tangerines, marshmallow fluff and cardamom – a dessert that too played off flavors of sweet and tangy with amazing texture and gooeyness.


Unfortunately, the realities of work set back in as the last of the martinis and cake was polished off. But, hey, if it worked for the Mad Men…

Hank Panky Martini Recipe
1oz Plymouth Gin
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Fernet Branca

Stir (not shake) together over ice. Strain into coupe and garnish with an orange twist.