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Friday, March 30, 2012

Vintage Happy Hour with Jenny Q: The Horse's Neck

In honor of the devil-may-care Georgie Amberson Minafer, from our newest release, The Magnificent Ambersons, that terror on horseback and behind the reins of a surrey, this evening we're paying tribute to the Horse's Neck.

The Horse's Neck is an American invention, made with brandy (or sometimes bourbon), ginger ale, and a long twist of lemon peel, usually served in an old-fashioned or highball glass. This cocktail's name is distinctive for being named for its garnish, and it actually started out in the 1890s as a non-alcoholic beverage, with crushed ice in place of alcohol, and it's still a popular refresher today. But by the early 1900s Americans were spiking it with brandy and calling it a "Horse's Neck with a kick," and it quickly caught on across the pond.

It became a favorite drink among officers of the British Royal Navy after World War II, and it made an appearance in various films and novels throughout the fifties and sixties. James Bond himself enjoys a variation of the Horse's Neck, as it was a favorite of his creator, Ian Fleming.

An interesting anecdote involving the Horse's Neck stems from an extravagant party hosted in New York City in 1903 to celebrate the opening of the new stables for the New York Equestrian Club. While no expense was spared and the hosting restaurant was turned into an idyllic countryside setting for the evening, complete with all of the club members dining on horseback, the host neglected to serve the one drink expected to be there, the Horse's Neck, and was ridiculed for it in the pages of the Town Topics scandal sheet. (Read a full version of the story here.)

The Horse's Neck made headlines again in 2010 when cutbacks led the British Navy to curtail officers' parties held on ships in foreign ports, where Horse's Necks were offered up by the barrel, leading to a bit of an outcry.

Many variations of the cocktail exist today, with popular ones substituting rye whisky or dark rum for brandy, and adding bitters, but for the ultimate in easy refreshment, the original Horse's Neck can't be beat.


The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
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