With just four easy ingredients, the Bourbon Buck cocktail is a fast and tasty ginger highball for a refreshing hot weather sip. It’s a mule cocktail recipe transformed into something worth drinking this summer!
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What is a Buck Cocktail?
A Buck cocktail is a drink that’s made of three elements, spirit, citrus and ginger soda (it’s flexible whether ginger beer or ginger ale is involved).
This sweet cocktail has a bite you can dial up or down by the amount of ginger you use. I love adding some fresh berries to muddle as well, but that’s optional. But, if you try it with and without, you’ll likely raid the fridge for berries before making it again.
As far as the Buck cocktail history, this is another of those cocktails where the exact origin is unknown, but the cocktails like the Gin Buck and the Moscow Mule are variations within the category. Both of them use a spirit, a ginger soda and citrus – in the case of both, lime is traditional.
Gin bucks were extremely popular before and during Prohibition (likely because the gin was unpalatable and needed a little flavor to hide the taste).
If you’re asking yourself “What is a good mixer for bourbon?” think about the flavor notes in bourbon – caramel, vanilla, oak, leather, dried fruit, baking spices. All of these aromas and flavors benefit when added to a spicy kick of ginger.
Bourbon Ginger Highball Ingredient Notes
Buck recipes traditionally call for bourbon, so I used my favorite bourbon whiskey. If you prefer a Tennessee whiskey, go for it; Use what you love!
- Ginger Beer or Ginger Ale
Buck cocktails are in the same family as the highball, which is just spirit and soda. So, you can use any ginger mixer you love.
The difference between ginger ale and ginger beer is that, historically, ginger beer was first because it was originally a lightly fermented beer. It had a kick from ginger AND a kick from the fermentation.
These days, for the most part, the ginger beer you find in the grocery store is non-alcoholic. Even so, the flavor of ginger beer is definitely stronger than ginger ale. Some, like Reeds Extra Ginger Brew, can pack a real punch!
I made this buck as a ginger ale cocktail, to keep the ginger flavor from overwhelming the whiskey. But, if you choose a more assertive bourbon or whiskey, or prefer more of a bite in your ginger highball cocktails, swap out the soda for ginger beer. You can even make ginger beer at home – it’s very simple!
The mixer makes or breaks this ginger cocktail recipe. A large portion of the volume and flavor in the highball comes from ginger soda. So, use quality ginger ale or ginger beer.
If you have a favorite you love, mix and match it with different bourbons until you find your favorite combination for this easy summer drink.
Flavors in this Bourbon Ginger Cocktail
Lemon is a great citrus flavor pairing with bourbon. I prefer lemon juice over lime because I associate limes and ginger beer with the Kentucky Mule cocktail.
Sometimes the bite of lime can be too harsh for a mid-proof bourbon, and I want you to be able to savor the flavor of the alcohol.
- Raspberries and Mint
I use the fresh berries in the Buck drink and for the garnish as well. I think the flavor combination of raspberry, lemon, and ginger is perfect for a highball cocktail like this, but you can use any fresh berries.
What’s a Kentucky Buck Cocktail?
The Kentucky Buck is the creation of mixologist Erick Castro. The drink was developed in San Francisco, and the tweaks he makes to a Whiskey Buck take the cocktail to a fantastic level.
Erick includes muddled strawberry in his recipe, along with ginger syrup, bourbon, and bitters. He tops it with unflavored soda, but controls the spiciness of the ginger flavor by using that ginger simple syrup instead of ginger beer.
How to Make a Bourbon Ginger Buck
I love the addition of a small bit of muddled fruit to the traditional whiskey buck cocktail! Ultimately, I chose raspberry over strawberry. However, I wanted to keep to the simplicity of ginger ale, because the bourbon I used was around 90 proof and I didn’t want to overwhelm the cocktail with too much ginger.
This one is a snap to put together. Add your strawberry or 4 raspberries to the bottom of a shaking tin, add in the syrup and citrus and muddle a bit. Add bourbon, ice and shake hard for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a tall Collins glass and top with ginger ale. For garnish, I kept to fresh raspberries with a sprig of mint because my mint is overflowing lately.
Buck Recipe Variations
From the Kentucky Buck Cocktail by Erick Castro to the Irish Buck version made with Irish whiskey, there are many ways to swap out the spirit of the ginger cocktail.
Try different regional or specialty whiskies to create riffs on the original. Matching different citrus flavors and different ginger sodas is key to bringing out the flavors in the whiskey base.
- Tennessee Buck – made with Tennessee whiskey, of course.
- Texas Buck – we know how Texans love their local whiskey. I’m sure their local ginger beers can stand up to their full-bodied whiskies.
- Pennsylvania Buck – with Pennsylvania-style rye.
- Japanese Buck – with Japanese whiskey and perhaps Yuzu as the citrus element?
- Canadian Buck – Canadian ryes mixed with lemon and a barspoon of maple syrup.
- Rye Buck – your favorite rye with a great ginger beer to burn through the spice of the spirit.
Tips and Tricks for a Fantastic Ginger Cocktail
- Make sure the glass is ice cold. Always chill a glass you’re using for a highball-type drink! This ginger highball is no exception!
- Use plenty of ice!
Fill the glass with ice completely and use large cubes, not pellet or cracked ice. This keeps the drink from overdiluting.
- Chill the mixer. The ginger ale/ginger beer should be chilled, not room temperature. I chill mine for 5 min in the freezer while I’m putting together the cocktail.
Other Highball Cocktail Recipes to Enjoy
- Hibiscus Ginger Highball
- Chocolate Ginger Manhattan
- Earl Grey Bourbon Spritz
- Killer Tropical Chai Highball
- Grapefruit Hibiscus Highball
- Peach Highball
- Kentucky Ranch Water – easy tailgate cocktail
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Raspberry Kentucky Bourbon Buck
- 2 oz bourbon
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
- 4 raspberries (strawberries are also great here)
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- Top with ginger ale (or ginger beer)
- Garnish: fresh raspberries, mint
- Muddle lemon juice, raspberries and simple in the bottom of a shaking tin.
- Add bourbon, fill with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds.
- Strain into a tall, ice-filled Collins glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish.