A Horse Walks into a Bar

The above photo is from Aquavit to Zombies, a cocktail guide published in 1957 that I found at a local thrift shop.  As I flipped through its alphabetized entries, I found a cocktail that was unfamiliar to me.  Not that I know the name of every cocktail on earth, but the ones made up of simple ingredients tend to be the most long-lived and popular.  Why, then, hadn’t I heard about a Horse’s Neck?  Here’s what Aquavit to Zombies had to say on the matter.

Interesting, I thought to myself.  Liquor, ginger ale, and lemon.  Sounds simple and refreshing!  But this is me, the intrepid researcher, so I had to research the beginnings of such a drink.  The earliest reference I could find to a Horse’s Neck is from Daly’s Bartenders’ Encyclopedia, published in 1903, which labels it as “a temperance drink.”

While I have nothing against ginger ale and lemon peel, I was more interested in when liquor became part of the drink’s equation.  Most of the bar guides I found on the internet served brandy or whiskey with the traditional ginger-ale and lemon peel, but then I started finding some that used other liquors, which made me wonder which came first: the brandy or the gin?

The next image (on the left) is from The Ideal Bartender, a cocktail guide published in 1917.  This book lists the drink as a “Polo Player’s Delight,” and uses Old Tom Gin (a slightly sweeter version of London gin) as the appropriate liquor for the Horse’s Neck .  In 1933, The Merry Mixer uses whiskey in place of gin.  In a 1946 article about common cocktails, Life Magazine encourages home-bartenders to use what ever liquor they have handy for a Horse’s Neck (shown on the above right).

I served both the whiskey and gin varieties this weekend and opinions were mixed.  Those of us in the group who likd mixed drinks with whiskey thought the whiskey-based Horse’s Neck was lovely.  I’m a big fan of sipping on single malt, but I don’t really like whiskey-based cocktails.  I do, however, love drinks with gin as the main ingredient — so you can can guess which of the two I preferred.  The gin-based Horse’s Neck was light and refreshing!

I followed the basic directions and added a squirt of lemon juice to the glass as well.  Cutting a long strip of lemon was not easy, but I was just using a paring knife and not a fancy-schmancy bar tool.  For the liquor, I used Bombay and Jameson’s, along with some Thomas Kemper’s Ginger Ale.  All-in-all, I think this drink would be perfect to sip on a summer’s evening!


  1. Reply
    Jasmine Payne March 15, 2010

    A great ginger ale based drink is my pesonal fave, the moscow mule!

  2. Reply
    Jenn March 15, 2010

    Gin and ginger ale with lemon? Sounds divine. With the warm(ish) weather we’ve been having lately I might have to try it with the lemony ginger beer we’ve got on hand and Tanqueray. One of these days I’ll get to the bottom of that gin bottle and then I’ll go local. There’s an all-Wisconsin gin I’ve been wanting to try for a few years now.

    • Reply
      alison March 16, 2010

      @Jenn it’s a perfect warm weather drink. And, like Pimms, it will go straight to your head!

  3. Reply
    Beth March 15, 2010

    Sounds tasty! I love ginger ale and only recently had it spiked with Jameson.

    On a different note: you should remind me to scan and send you the fold-out bartender’s guide that came with my grandmother’s Osterizer. She kept it tucked in her bartending guide, which features a headless housewife serving a tray of drinks. Classic!

    • Reply
      alison March 16, 2010

      @Beth: I remember looking at it when we had dinner at your place! I would totally feature it on the blog if you’d scan it in!

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