This weekend is one of the more popular drinking holidays of the year, the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, folks everywhere will hoist mint juleps, preferably in silver cups.
Of course, it seems like there's always someone who's not too keen on the mint julep. What to do for them? I have a drink with an excellent thematic connection: the Horse's Neck.
See also: Bill Samuels' Perfect Mint Julep
The Horse's Neck is a little bit of an oddball in the cocktail world because it's named for its garnish, a very long swath of lemon peel with the end hanging over the rim of the glass. Squint a little and it resembles a horse's neck poking up and out. At least, so the story goes.
The funny thing about the Horse's Neck is that when it was first served in the late 19th Century, it was a nonalcoholic drink, simply ginger ale with a dash or two of bitters and the iconic lemon garnish. A couple of decades later, people were asking for their Horse's Neck "with a kick", adding a shot of brandy or bourbon. By the middle of the 20th Century, the virgin version fell by the wayside and you didn't have to request the kick anymore.
Making the long strip of lemon zest is a little bit more challenging than making your average lemon twist, but is easy to pick up. It's made easier with the use of a channel knife, a little gizmo you may already have lurking in the back of your gadget drawer.
Start by cutting with the channel knife going pole-to-pole, then once you've started to make the cut take a sharp turn to start cutting a spiral, leaving a 1/2-inch strip of zest in between the channels you leave. Once you've cut all the way down the lemon, use a paring knife to cut off the remaining zest in one long strip, leaving as much of the bitter white pith behind as possible. Use the wide strip for the Horse's Neck, and reserve the thin strip for your martinis.
You can do the Horse's Neck spiral without the channel knife, but the first channel cut makes cutting the spiral easier. If you plan to make a bunch of Horse's Necks, you can cut the lemon zest strips in advance (even the night before) and keep them in cold water. In fact, I prefer to prepare them like this, because the spiral of zest gets a good bit more spring.
Oh, while you may be tempted to stick a straw in the drink since it's more or less a highball, I recommend you don't give a straw to your Horse's Neck. By getting your nose down into the drink, you get a better whiff of the lemon zest and improve the flavor of the drink.
Horse's Neck 1 very long strip lemon zest 1-1/2 ounces bourbon or cognac 5 ounces ginger ale 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Coil zest around outside of a tall glass, hanging the end over the rim. Add ice cubes to fill. Add spirits, ginger ale, and bitters. Stir gently to combine.
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