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. Some people substitute lime rind, and some orange (I think this is too sweet). In fact, as I have discovered, making this particular garnish requires the sculptural skills of a Michaelangelo, rather than any fancy barman mixicology skills. For a demonstration as to how to do this see the Saveur video further down this post. The less said about my efforts the better, so moving on swiftly let’s take a look at the ingredients.

The best cocktails all have elements of sweet, strong, and bitter. What provides the ‘sweet’ in this cocktail? The ginger ale (Schweppes is good). What provides the ‘strong’? The brandy, or the bourbon, or if you are sitting in Canada, the rye. For the difference between bourbon and rye follow this link. The ginger and the spirit work well together because they both have a bit of fire and caramel. So 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 a highball 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 By then, the classic Royal Navy drink, the Pink Gin, had been replaced by this long version.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 also 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’.

How to make a horse’s neck… with a kick

For one


  • your long spiral of lemon peel
  • 50 ml cognac, or bourbon, or rye… or even try Scotch
  • 100 ml ginger ale
  • couple of dashes, Angostura bitters


  1. Drape the lemon (or lime) peel artistically so that most of it is in the glass, and it is secured by being hooked over the rim.
  2. Add a couple of cubes of ice
  3. Pour in the spirit, followed by the ginger ale.
  4. Add a few drops of bitters.
  5. Stir and serve.

Demonstration as to how to cut the fiddly horse’s neck

The barman in the film The Captain Hates The Sea also hates making this garnish, “…around, and around, and around…. for that cockeyed Horse’s Neck,” he moans. The experts at Saveur show us how simple it can be:

Music to listen to as you sip

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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