There’s something refreshing, both literally and figuratively, about the simplicity of a highball, whether it’s the bracing bitterness of a Gin & Tonic or the warm spice of a Ginger Ale Highball. But if you add a little squirt of citrus to the latter, it transforms into a buck. Technically, a buck is any mix of ginger ale (or ginger beer), citrus juice and a spirit. The Dark ’n Stormy is a famous variation, one that’s popular enough that it has its own name—normally, a buck is simply named after whatever spirit goes into it. The Irish Buck, then, is a mix of Irish whiskey, ginger ale and lime juice, served in a tall glass over ice.
The category dates back to the late 19th century, and it’s believed to have been a bit of a play on words. A glass of ginger ale was referred to as a Horse’s Neck—add a measure of liquor and it gives it a kick, or a “buck.” The recipe‘s simplicity gives it room for experimentation. Even with something as simple as the Irish Buck, you have a multitude of options, starting with the choice of whiskey. Do you use one that is approachable and affordable, like Jameson or Bushmills, or do you splurge and throw in a single malt or small batch whiskey?
The other element to contend with is the choice between ginger beer and ginger ale. At one time, the majority of store-bought ginger ales were artificial and cloyingly sweet—nowadays there are plenty of options for good quality ginger ales. Ginger beer, which is naturally fermented with ginger, is usually going to pack a spicier punch, and is often a bit less sweet. With the Irish Buck, it’s up to personal taste which one you use.
Finally, the recipe calls for a quarter-ounce of lime juice, but the Irish Buck is a forgiving highball. It’s perfectly acceptable to squeeze a quartered lime (or even a lemon, which goes nicely with whiskey) over the drink and then drop it in. But be sure to avoid seeds—no one wants to suck a seed up through their straw when enjoying a beverage.
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 ounces ginger ale, chilled, to top
Garnish: lime wheel
Add the whiskey and lime juice into a Collins glass filled with ice.
Top with the ginger ale and stir gently and briefly to combine.
Garnish with a lime wheel.