Recipe Horse's Neck (With a Kick)

By Timo Torner / Last updated on May 7, 2023

The Horse's Neck traditionally was a non-alcoholic refreshment. Today it's better known as a cocktail made with cognac or bourbon, ginger ale, bitters, and a lemon peel.
Stiff Horse's neck or Horse's neck with a kick

The Horse's Neck is usually garnished with a long, spiraled lemon peel that's also accountable for the name of the cocktail. The end of the peel protrudes beyond the glass and resembles - admittedly, with a bit of imagination - the look of a horse head.

Quick Facts Horse's Neck with a Kick

  • Method: built in glass
  • Flavor profile: slightly spicy, sweet
  • How to serve it: over ice
  • Glassware: Collins glass, highball glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 11% ABV, 15 grams of alcohol per serving

The drink is a typical representative of the Highballs, a specific type of cocktail commonly made with only two ingredients. 

Stiff Horse's neck or Horse's neck with a kick

Stiff Horse's Neck Recipe

A Highball made of Cognac/Bourbon and ginger ale. Famous for its long lemon peel garnish.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bourbon, Cognac
Servings: 1
Calories: 134kcal
Cost: $3.20


  • 1 Jigger
  • 1 Bar spoon


  • 1.5 oz Cognac - (alternatively Bourbon)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 oz Fever Tree Ginger Ale
  • 1 Long and thin lemon peel - for garnish


  • Spiral the Lemon peel along the inner side of a chilled highball glass.
    1 Long and thin lemon peel
  • Put ice cubes or a collins ice stick in the glass and carefully add the Cognac.
    1.5 oz Cognac
  • Fill up with ginger ale and gently stir the drink with a bar spoon
    3 oz Fever Tree Ginger Ale
  • Add two dashes of Angostura bitters. Cheers
    2 dashes Angostura bitters


Serving: 4.75ozCalories: 134kcalCarbohydrates: 9.68gSodium: 7mgPotassium: 1mgSugar: 9.68gCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ingredients to make this Highball

Here's what you need 

  • The spirit: The base of the drink is either cognac or bourbon. Both work, but I prefer the cognac-based version. Opt for quality, but don't go premium. A top-shelf cognac will be wasted here. I can recommend the V.S. or V.S.O.P. from Hennessy or Remy Martin. 
  • The filler: the ginger ale should be ice cold. That way, the drink will water down slower, giving you more time to enjoy it. 
  • The bitters: To make the drink perfect, add two dashes of Angostura bitters. They add some extra complexity to the mix.
  • The garnish: Naturally, the mandatory thin lemon peel must not be missing. 

When done right, the result is a sweet, spicy, and refreshing brandy cocktail.

Ideally, you serve the Horse's Neck in a long, tall glass with a Collins ice stick. Collins ice sticks are long ice sticks specifically designed for use in Collins and Highball glasses.

Garnish of the Horse's Neck

Horses Neck with a Kick lemon garnish

The lemon garnish is the most iconic feature of the Horse's Neck Cocktail. To make it, you can cut a broad peel, as shown below, and place that along the inside of the glass. 

Horses Neck with a Kick lemon peel

Alternatively, you can use a thin, long lemon zest, and place that in a twirl inside the glass so that one end protrudes over the rim of the glass.

The first looks more sophisticated, and the second is more traditional and matches the name a little better.


Apart from the non-alcoholic version that omits the cognac, you can also replace the brandy base with whiskey. As mentioned above, this would usually be bourbon, but you can also try rye - it's spicier and balances the sweet ginger ale nicely. A Canadian variation named the Rye & Ginger even specifically requires Canadian whiskey.

Further, since ginger ale is quite a sweet soft drink, some people like to add a splash of citrus juice to the recipe for better balance. If you feel like you need a sour element, add 0.25 freshly squeezed lemon juice.

History of the Horse's Neck cocktail

In the late 1800s, the Horse's Neck was merely a non-alcoholic refreshment. The beverage incorporated ginger ale, cocktail bitters, lots of ice, and a long lemon peel. It took until 1910 that the drink evolved into the so-called Horse's Neck with a Kick, also called a Stiff Horse's Neck, spiked with brandy.

The traditional non-alcoholic version was not immediately off the map. In the state of New York, the refreshing soft drink got poured on a regular basis until the 1960s. After that, the original version became more and more forgotten. Eventually, the drink was popular only in its alcoholic form.

These days, the International Bartending Association (IBA) lists the drink under their Contemporary category. Their recipe uses cognac. However, as explained before, the base spirit is subject to change. Often, you come across recipes that suggest making the Horse's Neck with bourbon, sometimes also Rye. 

Related Cocktails

If you like drinks with a spicy note of ginger, try some of these: 

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