A Horse’s Neck Cocktail To Horse Around Happily With…

We have some new tenants moving into the stables here this month, so in their honour this month’s cocktail is the redoubtable Horse’s Neck.

From its name it could, in fact, be composed of practically anything because the idea is that it’s named after the shape of the continuous spiral of lemon rind that hangs over the lip of the glass, supposedly invoking the silhouette of a horse’s neck. In fact, as I have discovered, this requires the sculptural skills of a Michaelangelo, rather than any fancy barman mixicology skills. So moving on swiftly we should look at the ingredients.

What provides the sweet? The ginger ale (Schweppes is good). What provides the strong? The bourbon. The two work well together because they both have a bit of fire and caramel. What provides the bitter? The lemon and the Angostura bitters.

horse's neck cocktail recipe
Getting the garnish to look like a horse’s neck is a heck of a fiddle.

Although the bourbon and ginger both have a warming effect (ginger is especially good for getting your circulation going), this is a long, refreshing drink with the tall glass being first filled with ice. In fact The Horse’s Neck began life as a non-alcoholic drink with the alcoholic version initially being known as a ‘horse’s neck with a kick’. It’s a good drink for March when we’re on the cusp of the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

The best description of how to make a horse’s neck cocktail is given by Lieutenant Weston (played by Donald Houston) in the ‘50s film, The Yangtze Incident. The film deals with a true incident involving the ship HMS Amethyst in the Second World War. By then, the classic Royal Navy drink, the Pink Gin, had been replaced by this long version. It was a favourite of one particular officer working in Naval Intelligence, Ian Fleming, who passed on his enjoyment of the drink to his Naval officer creation, James Bond, who partakes of a stiff brandy and ginger ale in both ‘Octopussy’ and ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.

So what are the various versions? Well, of course the bourbon can be substituted for brandy (as above), whisky, rum or gin.

Or there is always this marvellous French version which, naturally, uses cognac instead of bourbon and spurns any childish artistic attempts, simply substituting the sculptured spiral for a slice of orange.

As you sip your Horse’s Neck, why not listen to this calming music from Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins’ appropriately named album, Neck and Neck.

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