If left to my own devices, I would make nothing but exceptionally complicated, difficult drinks to show on this blog. The really gorgeous kind that require two special tinctures, crushed ice, particular glassware, a very specific hard-to-find spirit and shisho leaves. I’d make those, that is, if it weren’t for the fact that I have a full-time job, clothes that require washing at least every few weeks, a home that needs to be cleaned from time-to-time, a cat who gets cranky if he goes unfed for more than a day—the ceaseless responsibilities of this hellish merry-go-round we call adulthood. Whine, whine, whine.
Since I unfortunately do not have the free time to make all of the cocktails that I would like to, I try to mix up my repertoire of classics with some more complicated tipples. That way my garnish skills and palette don’t get rusty and you don’t get bored with reading recipes that end in “shake and strain into a cocktail glass.” Hence, one afternoon while I was paging through The Craft of the Cocktail in search of a drink idea, I saw the Horse’s Neck and decided that my channel knife-skills needed some honing. It isn’t a horribly complicated garnish, but it requires patience, dexterity and concentration to execute successfully.
The Craft recipe called for bourbon which didn’t seem especially accurate to me. I checked the rest of my books to corroborate and discovered that Barflies and Cocktails calls for gin, while Trader Vic lists brandy and bitters. In the absence of a consensus, I went with my preference and used cognac. To paraphrase a friend with better taste than I, “when the recipe says brandy, I just assume they meant cognac.”
Though I chose the brandy and bitters route, I followed Dale DeGroff’s instructions for the lemon spiral and—much to my surprise—finally managed to do a decent channel cut all the way around the lemon. After doing a little dance around the kitchen, I also managed to trim the entire garnish off without losing a digit or part of the peel. It took me about five minutes of very careful work, but I did it.
2 oz brandy
dash Angostura bitters
Cut a long lemon spiral to garnish the glass: begin by using a channel knife to cut a thin spiral all the way around the lemon. Then, using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut the remaining ½” wide peel off of the lemon, keeping the whole spiral in one piece. Curl the spiral tightly around a barspoon, chopstick or straw and place in a glass of ice water for ten minutes (ice water makes the spiral tighter and helps the peel keep its shape).
Drop the spiral peel into a tall glass and arrange it so that the peel wraps around the inside of the glass and the end is hanging over the top in a shape similar to a stylized horse’s head and neck. Add ice and build the brandy, bitters and ginger beer. Relax and enjoy all your hard work.
The original recipe calls for ginger ale but, as is the case with brandy v. cognac, there are few things that can’t be made better using ginger beer instead of ginger ale. The drink itself is simple and refreshing—sweetness from the brandy countered by the spiciness of the ginger and bitters, plus the wonderful aromatic kick of the lemon peel. Maybe not the best choice for batching at a party yet certainly great for guests, it’s a good, tasty
highball cooler* with excellent presentation value and a solid flavor.
*After finally picking up a copy of Robert Hess’ new book, The Essential Bartender’s Guide, I have been forced to correct myself. A highball and cooler are very similar, but the latter is defined by the use of a single long lemon spiral wound around the inside of the glass.