21. Horse’s neck

26 Aug

Going up to a man at the iced drinks counter, I ventured to ask: “Do you think I could possibly get a hansom cab?” He looked at me, and, seizing a tumbler in his hand: “No, ma’am,” he said, “but I can mix you a horse’s neck.” He thought I was mad, and I thought he was rude; but after all it was nothing, for one of the soft drinks in America is called a “horse’s neck”, and, as I subsequently found, is extremely good. It is composed of ginger-ale with the entire rind of a lemon, and well iced;  and as the man thought my “hansom cab” was drink, he imagined a “horse’s neck” would do quite as well.

— Mrs. Alec Tweedie, America as I Saw It, or America Revisited (London: Hutchinson, 1913), pp. 317-18.

In olden times, Christmas was celebrated by the wassail bout, which was a variety of the three-pints-for-five schooner. Nowadays the holiday is observed by the consumption of the horse’s neck and the martini . . .

— Stuart B. Stone, The Nonsensical USA (New York: Caldwell, 1912), p. 148.

No, it’s supposed to be a big winding curl. Give me a knife . . . I’ll show you how to do it. It’s got to look like a horse’s neck.

— Harry Kurnitz, Reclining Figure (New York: Random House, 1955), p. 19.

A “horse’s neck” was originally a soft drink; or, in Tim Daly’s words, “a temperance drink which is refreshing and has an appetizing and inviting appearance (Daly’s Bartender’s Encylopedia [Worcester, MA: Daly, 1903], p. 46).  In its most basic form (for example, in Daly’s recipe) it was simply a glass of iced ginger-ale decorated with a lemon peel that evoked a stylized collo equi. Other authorities might call for a dash or two of Angostura bitters or the juice of a half a grapefruit to jazz things up, but it remained a beverage that even a Carrie Nation would be content to swig. At some point, however, whiskey began to be added to the mix, refreshingly reversing the usual process whereby cocktails were travestied and reinvented as boozeless soda syrups. The entry for “horse’s neck” in the Standard Encylopedia of the Alcohol Problem reads: “A slang term used in America for a drink compounded of ginger-ale and lemon-peel with or without whisky, the peel being usually served hanging over the side of the glass” (Ernest Hurst Cherrington (ed.), Standard Encylopedia of the Alcohol Problem, 6 vols [Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing Co., 1925-1930], vol. 3 (1926), p. 1250).

One of the earliest recipes (that I am aware of) for a whiskey and ginger ale cooler was published by Thomas Stuart in 1904.¹ Immediately after listing the ingredients for the well-known and alcohol-free “horse’s neck”, he describes something called a “horse’s collar”, which is the “same as Horse’s Neck, using a drink of rye whiskey” (Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them [New York: Excelsior, 1904], p. 134). Confusingly, the Baltimore Sun, which claimed the horse’s neck was an “Atlantic City commodity”, invented by a bartender just as he was about to be fired, but who was then redeemed when his invention proved popular, also insisted that it was made of whisky and ginger ale and that a horse’s collar “is similar, only brandy is used instead of whisky” (“Mysteries of Mixed Drinks”, Baltimore Sun, 14 August 1900, p. 10). There were still other combinations of spirits and ginger ale trading under the name. For example, Tom Bullock  has a drink called “Polo Player’s Delight—Horse’s Neck”, made very specifically of 1 jigger each of Sir Robert Burnette’s Old Tom Gin and Cantrell & Cochran’s Ginger Ale (The Ideal Bartender [St Louis: Buxton & Skinner, 1917], p. 45). And James C. Maloney advises flavoring the ginger ale with “any kind of rum the customer desires” (The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks [Chicago: no publisher, 1900], p. 31).

I followed roughly the measurements laid down in the post-Prohibition booklet Merry Mixer: 1/3 Golden Wedding whiskey and 2/3 ginger ale and a slice of lemon, which constituents one must then “joggle a bit” (William Guyer, The Merry Mixer [New York: Finch, 1933], p. 43).

The key to a good horse’s neck is the ginger ale: none of that miserable Canada Dry dreck, if you please. I unreservedly recommend Atlanta’s dark and peppery Red Rock.

2 oz. Bulleit bourbon whiskey

5 oz. Red Rock ginger ale

Garnish with a long strip of lemon peel curled around a bar spoon

Plenty of ice

Serve in a tall glass.

A related drink was the Mamie Taylor.  To Scotch whiskey and ginger ale was added the juice of half a lime. Tim Daly describes the drink as “a pleasing form for persons to partake of whiskey without feeling the harsh effect that plain whiskey would have, and imparts the same stimulating effect” (Bartender’s Encyclopedia [Worcester, MA: Daly, 1903], p. 113).

JIM. Come up to my room and have a Mamie Taylor.

MAN. I thought this was a temperance hotel.

JIM. (Laughs.) It is. They serve their Mamie Taylors in teacups.

— Walter Ben Hare, And Home Came Ted: A Comedy of Mystery in Three Acts (Chicago: Denison, 1917), p. 28.

A horse’s neck with brandy, all the rage in 1904, “was introduced at the Hoffman House a few nights ago by a politician well known on the race tracks”. He called it the “Flora Zabelle“, after the “black-eyed little actress in The Yankee Consul“, a Broadway musical comedy later made into a film. (“Spring Fashions in Drinks”, New York Times, 8 May 1904).


¹ Although a year earlier we find this brief news item in The Wine and Spirit Bulletin:

The “ginger ale jounce” is the name of a new drink, said to have been invented by Senator Hale of Maine. It is composed of Scotch whisky, ginger ale and lemons. Maine is a prohibition state, and it is surprising to learn that its officials invent drinks. But then it is believed by many than prohibition does not prohibit.  The drink may not be a new one, either. Something very much like it is called “horse’s neck” in this part of the world. “Ginger ale jounce” may make it go easier in Maine. Perhaps Senator Hale only invented the name.

— Wine and Spirit Bulletin, vol. 17: 8 (1 August, 1903), p. 21.


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