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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
  • Kristen

    this cocktail sounds right up my alley!

  • Emily

    I love the sound of this – and can’t believe I’ve never heard of/noticed this drink on a cocktail menu!

  • Shannon G

    love the kick- this sounds incredible!

  • Meghan M.

    Oooh I love this.

  • Michelle Collins

    This sounds so refreshing!

  • Megan

    This sounds wonderful. I love ginger-y drinks like that. (I wonder if you could steep grated ginger in the simple syrup to save some trouble juicing it?)

    • Colleen

      That’s a good idea. I’ll have to try it out and see!

  • Simply Life

    I’ve never heard of this drink before but I’d like to try it now!

  • Pingback: Culinary Colleen

  • Pingback: Culinary Colleen

  • Philliip C

    I heard another story as to why it is called a Presbyterian. While most sources say it’s the Scotland/Scotch/Church connection (and that very well may be true)…I heard that Presbyterian church functions, like group dinners etc in Western Pennsylvania, which is a hot bed of Presbyterianism, would usually come with a small paper cup with a splash of rye whiskey. So rye became an almost exclusively Presbyterian thing. That kinda makes sense, because a lot of my family, and we’re all Presby…hails from Pittsburgh and they drink a lot of Canadian Club. They have another drink called a highball, 3 measure of CC, some squirt (lemon/lime soda) squeeze of a lemon and a cherry.

  • Evan

    My friends and I made this for a cocktail party recently. No-one had heard of the drink before but it was a HUGE hit. I plan on serving this again often. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Choto Baka

    This recipe would step up a few notches by: (1) using Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye; (2) ditch the ginger juice/simple syrup concoction and replace with chilled Barritts or Reed’s ginger beer; (3) lose the ginger garnish, replacing it with a big wedge of juicy lime; and finally (4) add a few splashes of aromatic bitters. Refreshing, spicy with depth of flavor and plenty of backbone. When it comes to rye, Rittenhouse is perfect for this cocktail.

  • jakubfoglar

    This is a wonderful cocktail, thanks for the recipe.
    I too got in the problem of how to efficiently juice the ginger. In the end I first grated it and then juiced it in an Aeropress! It worked perfectly. Highly recommended method (you need to wash the Aeropress beforehand and after really thoroughly though to not mix your coffee with ginger).

  • Popular

    • Smashed White Bean and Avocado Sandwich
    • Kale, Apple, and Ginger Smoothie
    • Spanish Tortilla
    • Roasted Carrots and Beets with Thyme (+ Some Big News!)
    • Tomato Sauce with Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Eggplant