Having a signature drink at a party doesn’t require you to spend the entire night behind a bar or to hire the local college-aged student to play bartender for the evening. Creating a DIY cocktail bar not only frees up your time as host, but also engages guests and gives them the takeaway of knowing how to make a simple, and delicious, drink. One of the best ways to set up a DIY bar is to pick a drink which can be made with only a few simple ingredients and for which various spirits can be interchanged. The “Buck” will kick off your summer and keep it going through Labor Day.
A classy classic, the Buck was first made with gin, but other spirits horned in, with the vodka version, also known as a Moscow Mule, perhaps being the most famous. Another famous Buck is the Dark And Stormy and Jamaican Buck. The distinguishing characteristics of a Buck are simple to remember and to mix. Easy on the brain and the wallet, two of my most cherished traits in a cocktail. Here’s all you need to know:
1. Get a tall glass
2. Add a lot of ice
3. Squeeze in 1/4 of a lime or lemon and then drop the rind in the glass
4. Pour in 2 ounces of your favorite spirit
5. Top off with ginger beer or ginger ale
Yes, it is that easy. At a recent gathering at my home bar/lair, we sampled gin, dark rum, light rum, tequila, and bourbon. But, don’t forget Scotch and brandy bucks, too. I made a simple instruction sheet (placed in a plastic page protector, lest a sloppy mixer ruin my careful explanation), and then laid out the ingredients in the order listed above. Then, I let my guests go at it. Always timid at first, after the first round, everyone was experimenting, mixing and matching spirits and citrus and ginger beer vs. ginger ale and debating over who’s Buck packed the most punch.
Create your own favorite and make it your summer sip. What’s not to like about citrus, booze and ginger? Speaking of ginger beer and ginger ale…
I got creative for this party and brewed my own ginger beer based upon the instruction in the May/June 2014 edition of Imbibe Magazine, a wonderful magazine and online resource for anyone, from beginner to expert, who is interested in “liquid culture.” Here’s what I did:
4 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
2 quarts water
1 cup demarara sugar (I didn’t have this handy, so substituted the Turbinado sugar lurking in my pantry from some obscure recipe used last year)
1 tbls. molasses
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (yes, that cost a pretty penny given the lime shortage)
1/4 tsp. champagne yeast (found at a local home-brew supply shop)
1. Puree ginger and 1 quart of water in a blender
2. Combine ginger-water, sugar and molasses in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves (around 5 minutes), then remove from heat and let cool. You want it a little warmer than room temperature, but not boiling so you can activate the yeast, but not kill it.
3. Strain the sugar-ginger-water mix through cheesecloth into a 2-litre plastic bottle.
4. Add the lime juice and enough of the remaining water until the bottle has about 3 inches left at the top. Sprinkle the yeast on top.
5. Squeeze the bottle until the liquid comes to the neck and then cap. Let the bottle sit at room temperature until it is hard. The recipe said 12 hours, but my house was chilly and it took about 18 hours. Be careful because it will explode. DO NOT use glass because that will shatter under the pressure.
6. Once the bottle is hard, put in the refrigerator to stop any more fermentation. Drink within a week.
That’s all! The Buck might have stopped with Harry S. Truman, but it starts with Thirsty Jane! Enjoy your summer and let me know your favorite Buck.