The Presbyterian Cocktail

Presbyterian Cocktail

If you look up “presbyterian cocktail” on the internet, you’ll probably find two things: (1) it’s usually made with whiskey and ginger ale, though the recipe is very much subject to interpretation, and (2) no one really knows why it’s called a presbyterian other than the fact it’s sometimes made with scotch…and the Presbyterian Church originated in Scotland.

Back to the “subject to interpretation” part. I had never even heard of this drink until Matt ordered it at a cocktail bar called Little Branch in New York. They describe it as whiskey with house made ginger beer and lime, garnished with candied ginger. It was apparent after one small sip that it wasn’t made with your average ginger beer; it had a kick. Spicy, crisp, and refreshing all at the same time – it was awesome.

We’ve been scouring the internet since then for a similar recipe with not much luck. Recently, Matt came across a comment on a discussion board claiming that Little Branch’s “ginger beer” is actually a combination of simple syrup and fresh ginger juice. We figured that was as close as we were going to get, so we set off to try recreating it at home.

To juice the ginger, we grated the ginger and strained the resulting mixture through cheesecloth, squeezing every last bit of juice possible out of it. (Owning a juicer would have made it much easier.)

Presbyterian Cocktail

Once we had the ginger juice, we had to figure out the correct ratio of ginger juice to simple syrup, and then the ratio of ginger syrup to whiskey and lime juice. We sat around one night and got to work. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

I want to say the recipe we came up with tastes exactly right, but I don’t want to insult Little Branch. Let’s just say that it tastes pretty close.

The Presbyterian Cocktail

The Presbyterian Cocktail


    For the Ginger Syrup (makes about a 1 1/4 of syrup, or enough for about 10 cocktails)
  • 1 pound fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cups simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in one part water)
  • For Each Cocktail
  • 2 ounces whiskey (Little Branch uses rye; we used Old Overholt Rye)
  • 1 ounce ginger syrup
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Splash of club soda
  • Candied ginger (optional)


  • To make the ginger syrup, juice the fresh ginger. You can do this with a juicer, a food processor with a grating attachment, or a box grater. If using a food processor or box grater, first roughly peel the ginger (it doesn't have to be perfect). Then, put the resulting mixture of grated ginger and liquid in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth tightly to get as much juice out of the ginger as possible.
  • Measure the resulting ginger juice. A pound of ginger should yield roughly 1/2 cup of juice, but this will depend on your ginger and juicing method. Add enough simple syrup to the juice mixture so that you have a ratio of 1:1.5 juice to simple syrup. Chill the ginger syrup.
  • For each cocktail, combine the whiskey, ginger syrup, and lime juice in a highball glass. Stir and add ice cubes. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with candied ginger, if desired.

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