Falling under the umbrella of the cooler family of cocktails, the buck category distinguishes itself with the addition of ginger beer (or ginger syrup and a soda component) to a base of spirit and citrus juice, served over ice, thought to have originated in near-parallel with the Rickey in the late 1890s. Most famous of the bucks is the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a simple mix of dark rum, lime and ginger beer over ice that has roots in late-19th-century colonial Bermuda, where England’s Royal Navy opened a ginger beer plant.
To remain in buck territory a drink must contain the one-two punch of ginger and citrus, but the spare template is an invitation to go, well, buck wild.
Jeremy Oertel—of Donna and You & Me Cocktails—takes liberties with his Watership Down a sort of herbal Gin & (green) Juice that calls for ginger syrup with a small dose of celery shrub, lime, gin and soda. Xavier Herit of New York’s Wallflower takes the adult-juice wink one step further with his Sho Sho, an unlikely combination of sherry, carrot shochu, carrot-ginger syrup and root beer.
Bourbon also routinely finds its way into buck riffs—its sweetness mellowing the kick of ginger. In Jay Zimmerman’s (of Brooklyn’s ba’sik) buckified version of the Whiskey Smash, Papa’s Pride, he combines ginger juice with the bitter-cool combination of Angostura bitters and mint, while Polite Provisions’ Erick Castro, couples bourbon and ginger syrup with the addition of lemon juice, a muddled strawberry and some Angostura bitters in his Kentucky Buck.
As the balmier days of the season descend, think of these ginger-laden drinks as your very own tall, spicy early-summer saviors.