Ginger is a spice that has been around for thousands of years. It was used as a flavoring element and medicine in China and India at first, migrating to Europe around the fourteenth century. It was backed into cookies during plague years to fight that epidemic, creating the gingerbread man we all know and love. The potent flavor was coveted to the point you could trade a pound of ginger for a sheep. It was not until the 19th century when, bored with his ale, a man put a little ginger spice in his beer and ginger beer was born! The trend grew and grew, with the sweeter ale tempering the flavor of the warm spice. The initial ginger beer could be as powerful as 11% ABV. When brewed, ginger and lemon was fermented along with the other ingredients in a fine ale, incorporating sharpness of the spice into the brew.
Many people will ask "Can't we just use ginger ale as a substitute for ginger beer?", and the answer is no. Ginger ale, like the type John McLaughlin developed into Canada Dry, is adding the ginger flavor into soda water, much like the original way Coca Cola was made. Ginger beer is fully brewed as a part of the drink, not just a addition to it. It highlights the sharpness of the ginger, adding far more zing than you would find in ginger ale. Bringing this over to America, they did what every bartender was doing with a new beverage or ingredient: adding it to liquor and seeing if it worked. In the case of ginger beer, it worked with everything. There was also an extra kick, or a buck, from the ginger. Thus, there was a style of cocktail called the Buck. It was ginger beer, with a splash of citrus, and the spirit of choice or convenience. Since September is Bourbon Heritage Month, the Bourbon Buck will be our buck of choice.
2 oz./60 mL bourbon (I went with Bulleit for the rye content)
.75 oz/ 23 mL lime juice (lemon also works in a pinch)
Ginger beer (alcoholic or not, your choice)
Glass: A Large One (Mugs or Collins both work well)
Garnish: Lime Wedge
Combine the bourbon and lime juice in a mixing tin. Add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a mug over ice. Top with the ginger beer, and garnish with a lime wedge.
Bite. A deep bite of the ginger, almost overpowering the bourbon. The ice helps to mollify it over time, but it is always there, pulling you back in for another sip. As warmer spices emerge in the fall months, this should also be emerging as an autumnal favorite. The Buck eventually disappeared from many cocktail books, being replaced by another popular ginger beer cocktail.