My first Presbyterian was in a bar in Brooklyn off Atlantic Avenue. It was on the cocktail menu and it sounded familiar, so I ordered one. I wondered if the bar had come up with that strange name on its own, so I did quick search for it on my phone. It’s a real drink, and it isn’t new.
The Presbyterian is the sort of tasty simple drink you can order almost anywhere:
2 oz. whiskey or scotch
4 oz. ginger ale
2 oz. ginger ale
2 oz. club soda
I prefer the full ginger effect, and ideally, you’re using a fancy gingery brew instead of the standard Canada Dry or Schweppes.
I tested three ginger ales to see which held up best with Jim Beam Bourbon. In the test, I mixed a half ounce of bourbon with a full ounce of ginger ale.
1. Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew: This was the most oddly discordant mix of the three. It was also the only one that wasn’t cloudy. It had less fizz and a pungent flavor that ultimately led me to wonder if the bottle had spoiled. It had no date.
2. Unfiltered Fresh Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost: It mixes well and has a nice bite to it. This one is very cloudy from all the pureed ginger bits in it. It’s the sweetest of the three, with a honey-like taste. However, it’s sweetened with cane sugar.
3. Regatta Ginger Beer: This may be my favorite. It keeps its fizz and its ginger bite the best, and it has a true ginger ale flavor to it to go along with that ginger bite. With the bourbon it has a slightly floral quality.
According to cocktail expert and historian David Wondrich, who curates Esquire‘s drink database, adding a half a lime to the Presbyterian makes it a “Mamie Taylor.” That’s great, but while the name is as mysterious in origin as the Presbyterian, it isn’t nearly as fun to order. I’d try calling it an Episcopalian, but that may be taken for a mix of green and yellow Chartreuse.
I wouldn’t dare call it a Lutheran. With all the Lutherans in Minnesota, and given the fact that the founder of Prohibition, Andrew Volstead, was a Republican Congressman from the Great State of Minnesota, I think the name Lutheran deserves a special cocktail.