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History of the classic Horse's Neck

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1900 | Indiana, USA

The outward appearance of this cocktail plays a no less important role than the recipe: a long spiral of lemon zest should rise up from the bottom of a tall glass so that it loops over the rim, bending beautifully like a noble steed’s shoulder.

One of the oldest English mixes, the Horse’s Neck was originally non-alcoholic: only ginger ale, ice, and zest were included. The first printed mentions of the cocktail can be found at the end of the 19th century, in Indiana’s "Fort Wayne" magazine. Then, mentions of an alcoholic version of the cocktail slowly start to appear. A composition with brandy was called the "Horse’s Collar". In 1900, The Mansfield News receives a story from a bartender who explained how he came up with his own variation for his boss, who decided to fire him, called "Horse’s Neck with a Kick". By the way, the boss liked the recipe and the bartender kept his job.

Towards the end of the Second World War, everyone generously forgot about the non-alcoholic recipe, and the version "with a kick" became the favorite drink of Royal Navy officers, knocking the traditional rose gin & tonic off its pedestal. In 1957, "The Yangtze Incident" hit theaters, where a naval officer was filmed drinking a Horse’s Neck for the first time. To this day, there are two main drinks at any naval officers’ party: a G&T, mixed in pinchers, and the Horse’s Neck.

Besides British officers, the cocktail had one other influential fan. Ian Fleming, regardless of his love for gin and vodka, also had a passion for brandy with ginger ale, though he called it a "cocktail for drunks". In Fleming’s version, James Bond drinks a double Horse’s Neck in his novel "In Her Majesty’s Secret Service", and in doing so cemented its image as a drink for the world’s tough guys.

See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev

Illustrations: Mine

Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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