Horse’s Neck Cocktail Recipe

The Horse’s Neck cocktail is known for its distinctive garnish – a lemon peel that twists all the way up through the drink and drapes over the side like a horse’s neck.

Horse's Neck cocktail with the iconic lemon twist garnish

But wait until you taste it. The flavor is bold, simple and delicious. It tastes as good as it looks. This is a great drink to have in your repertoire, partly because it’s so simple and tasty.

The Origins of the Horse’s Neck Cocktail

The Horse’s Neck cocktail came out of Atlantic city early last century. Its name is believed to come from the lemon peel resembling the long, curving shape of a horse’s neck.

The early recipes called for brandy, but eventually bourbon became the more popular choice. That’s what you’ll most likely get if you order it in a bar.

The Ingredients

To make a traditional Horse’s Neck cocktail, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Bourbon or brandy
  • Ginger ale
  • One long strip of lemon peel

Making it is easy, except for the garnish. You just build the ingredients in the glass.

How to Make The Horse’s Neck Garnish

The garnish is an essential part of the Horse’s Neck cocktail. It adds visual appeal and also gives a slight citrus aroma to the drink.

The classic garnish is a long strip of lemon peel, carefully twisted into a spiral shape and draped over the side of the glass to resemble a horse’s neck.

Making the garnish for the Horse’s Neck cocktail is surprisingly simple.

  1. Choose a fresh, firm lemon. This will make it easier to peel.
  2. Start at the top of the lemon and use a citrus peeler or a knife to cut a continuous spiral peel all around the fruit. Try to make the peel as long as possible. This is your “horse’s neck”.
  3. Once the peel is removed, twist it around a straw or a cocktail stirrer to get that spiral shape.
  4. Place one end of the peel inside the glass, draping the rest over the rim so it cascades down the side.

If you’re feeling inventive, you could experiment with other citrus fruits such as orange or grapefruit.

Tips and Tricks

The Bourbon

You don’t need a stunning single malt. A good blended bottle will be great.
Choosing a bourbon for your Horse’s Neck cocktail depends on your personal taste. Here are some can’t-go-wrong options:

  • Bulleit Bourbon: This is a highly versatile bourbon with a high rye content, giving it a spicy kick that can stand up to the ginger ale in a Horse’s Neck.
  • Maker’s Mark: This bourbon is smooth and sweet with a hint of spice. It’s known for its consistency and quality, making it a solid choice for any cocktail.
  • Buffalo Trace: Buffalo Trace is a balanced and smooth bourbon with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a bit of spice. It’s a great middle-of-the-road option that will shine through without overpowering the other flavors.
  • Wild Turkey 101: For a stronger, bolder cocktail, Wild Turkey 101 has a high proof and robust flavor profile that can stand up to the ginger ale and bitters.


The beauty of cocktails lies in their versatility, and the Horse’s Neck is no exception. Here are a few variations you can explore:

Ginger Beer: For those who prefer a bolder ginger flavor, substitute ginger beer for ginger ale in the classic recipe. The intensity of ginger beer adds an extra kick to the cocktail, making it perfect for those seeking a more robust taste experience.

Apple Brandy: Swap out bourbon or regular brandy for apple brandy to introduce a fruity twist to your Horse’s Neck cocktail. The apple brandy adds a delightful depth of flavor that complements the spicy ginger ale perfectly.

Sparkling Wine: For a touch of effervescence and elegance, replace ginger ale with sparkling wine or champagne.

Related Cocktails to Try

Food Pairings to Serve

While the Horse’s Neck is a treat on its own, it also pairs well with many food items.

  • Spicy Appetizers: The gingery kick of the Horse’s Neck makes it an excellent companion for spicy appetizers like buffalo wings or jalapeno poppers.
  • Grilled Meats: The robust flavors of grilled meats such as steak or lamb are beautifully complemented by the smoothness of a Horse’s Neck cocktail.
  • Cheese Platter: The citrus notes in the drink pair wonderfully with various types of cheese, particularly sharp cheddar or aged Gouda.
Horse's Neck cocktail with the iconic lemon twist garnish
Yield: 1 drink

Horse’s Neck Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 4 minutes

The Horse's Neck cocktail is known for its garnish - a lemon peel that twists up through the drink and drapes over the side. But wait until you taste it.


  • 2 oz bourbon or brandy
  • 4-6 oz ginger ale
  • One long strip of lemon peel


  1. Fill a Collins glass or highball glass with ice cubes.
  2. Pour the bourbon or brandy over the ice.
  3. Slowly add the ginger ale to the glass, allowing it to mix with the spirit.
  4. Take the long strip lemon peel and it around a cocktail spoon or straw to create a spiral shape.
  5. Place the twisted lemon peel into the glass, allowing one end to drape over the side, resembling a horse’s neck.
  6. Give the drink a gentle stir with the spoon or straw.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

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