Pickle Gin Buck Cocktail is a pickle twist on Buck cocktail recipes, such as that of Harry Craddock (1930), using a homemade fermented ginger beer paired with gin, fresh lemon juice and a dash of limoncello. The Buck recipe, also known as a Gin Buck or London Buck, is a simple one and usually calls for gin with lemon juice and ice built in a tall Highball or Collin’s glass and topped with ginger ale. This pickle gin buck cocktail uses fresh lemon juice, gin and a dash of limoncello for added lemon flavour and sweetness, stirred with ice and topped with a from scratch ginger beer made with a ginger bug starter from real fresh ginger used to ferment a ginger tea flavoured with lemon myrtle and cinnamon, lemon rind and juice and low GI cane sugar. The pickle gin buck cocktail is garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fresh lemon balm and has a delicious and refreshing lemon ginger flavour offering a celebration of fresh in season lemons and ginger.
What is a Buck? – Ingredients: Gin, citrus, ginger ale, ice
A Buck, Gin Buck or London Buck cocktail was a popular ‘cooler’ cocktail in the 1920’s according to Liquor.com in their article Gin Buck using lemon or lime juice, gin, and ginger ale, garnished with a lemon or lime wedge. Although the Buck recipe and variations such as the Mamie Taylor (scotch base) and Floradora (raspberry variation) are much older with examples from the early 1900’s (for more Buck and related cocktail history see Wondrich 2015: 149-51; Muldoon, McGarry & Schaffer 2015: 1455; Regan 2018: 4256). Simon Difford (2019) in his recipe for The Buck/Gin Buck explains that the Buck called for lemon juice, ginger ale and ice along with a base spirit, such as: gin, rum, calvados, brandy, whiskey, vodka; and can be improved with the addition of a complementary liqueur. Gary Regan (2015: 4256) in his book Joy of Mixology helpfully explains that the Buck is part of the ‘highball’ family of drinks. For more on the history of brandy and ginger highball recipes see my post on Chilcano de pisco.
London Buck – Hugo Ensslin (1917: 21) in Recipes for mixed drinks has a recipe for a ‘London Buck’ which calls for ice, ‘dry gin’, lemon juice and ginger ale to be served in a ‘Collins glass’. Harry Craddock (1930: 1341) in The Savoy Cocktail Book has a recipe for the ‘London Buck’ which calls for ‘dry gin’, lemon juice, ginger ale and ice to be served in a ‘long tumbler’. They both agree that the ingredients for a London Buck include:
- Lemon juice
- Dry Gin
- Ginger Ale
How to make a Buck? – Method: Build in the glass & stir
A Buck cocktail is built in the glass with the citrus juice and ice added along with the spirit then topped with ginger ale and stirred, garnished with a citrus wedge. Gary Regan helpfully details how the citrus wedge can be squeezed directly into the glass in which the drink is built in reference to the Mamie Taylor (Regan 2015: 4267), he writes of this ‘methodology’ of building the Buck:
“To make a Buck, one always squeezes the citrus wedge into an empty highball glass before the ice is added, and the drink is then built in the glass.”
Buck variations & related ginger Highball and Cooler drinks
There are many variations on the basic Buck recipe of gin, citrus, ginger ale and ice. Colleen Graham (2019) writing for The Spruce Eats in her wonderfully detailed article The Gin Buck lists a number of these Buck variations and related drinks, see below for some of Graham’s extensive list of variations and a referenced list of more I have found in a close reading of vintage and modern cocktail manuals (for full linked references see the Notes to this post). Some variations on the Buck as a ginger gin highball use flavours such as lemon, lime, raspberry, pineapple and mint. The Buck is also very closely related to the vodka based Moscow Mule calling for vodka, lime juice and ginger beer and variations of this formula. The use of scotch as a base spirit is another variation with the Mamie Taylor. The Horse’s Neck offers a ginger and lemon temperance drink that is in some recipes adapted by addition of a spirit. Most Buck and related recipes use ginger ale with the notable exception of the Gin-Gin Mule that uses ginger beer. Buck recipe variations and related ginger highball or cooler drinks include the following:
- Mamie Taylor – scotch, lime, ginger ale (Daly 1903: 112-113), or with lemon (Regan 2018: 4256)
- Horses’ Neck – lemon, ginger ale – ‘temperance’ drink (Daly 1903: 46), sometimes adapted with the addition of a spirit such as gin (Rios 1940: 34)
- Invisible Gin Highball – gin, lemon juice, alricotine, pineapple syrup, ginger ale (Bartenders’ Association of America 1912-13: 32)
- The Favourite Cocktail – gin, lime, mint, ginger ale (Straub 1914: 26)
- Ardsley & Automobile Coolers – gin, mint, ginger ale (Straub 1914: 45)
- Floradora Cooler – gin, lime, raspberry, ginger ale (Straub 1914: 46; for more Floradora history see Wondrich 2015: 149-51; Muldoon, McGarry & Schaffer 2015: 1455)
- Leap Frog – gin, lemon juice, ginger ale (Graham 2019) – Craddock’s Leap frog recipe is identical to the London Buck although the style of gin is not specified whereas the Buck calls for ‘dry gin’ (Craddock 1930: 1300)
- Dragonfly – gin, lime juice, ginger ale (Graham 2019)
- Foghorn – gin, lime juice, or lemon and lime juice, and ginger beer or ginger ale (Graham 2019; Bullock 1917: 38)
- Gin Gin Mule – dating from 2000 inspired by the rum based Mojito and closely related to the Moscow Mule, created by Audrey Saunders – gin, lime, ginger beer, mint (Graham 2019; for more detail and history on the Gin Gin Mule see Simonson’s (2016) Gin-Gin Mule in Punch and Difford’s (2019) Gin Gin Mule in Difford’s Guide).
How is the pickle gin buck cocktail different?
The pickle gin buck cocktail offers a lemon and ginger beer version of the Buck with a refreshing and spicy homemade fermented lemon myrtle and cinnamon ginger beer paired with gin, fresh lemon juice and a dash of limoncello for a refreshing lemon and ginger gin highball cocktail garnished with a slice of fresh lemon and a sprig of lemon balm.
How to make a make a pickle gin buck cocktail: Build in the glass & stir
The pickle gin buck cocktail is very easy to make – it is built in the glass with the gin, lemon juice and limoncello added to a tall glass along with ice and stirred then topped with ginger beer and garnished with a half wheel of lemon and sprig of lemon balm.
In season fresh lemons & lemon flavours: fresh lemon juice & wedge, lemon myrtle, lemon balm
The pickle gin buck cocktail offers a celebration of fresh lemons paired with bubbly from scratch ginger beer flavoured with lemon myrtle and garnished with a slice of fresh lemon and lemon balm. The lemon balm in the pickle gin buck cocktail adds a pop of green colour and a soft sweet lemon flavour and aroma that complements the sour fresh lemon juice and zesty ginger flavours. The lemon balm I have used in this drink is homegrown in my cocktail garden – I highly recommend growing some fresh herbs at home for adding flavour and colour to drinks and cocktails.
Homemade ginger beer from fresh ginger fermented with a from scratch ginger bug starter
The pickle gin buck cocktail features a homemade ginger beer fermented with a from scratch ginger bug starter that is easy to make at home and creates a delicious and bubbly ginger beer that can be used as a soft drink, fermented for longer for a low ABV drink as is, or used as a mixer in all sorts of cocktails such as a Chilcano de Pisco where I added strawberries to the ginger beer. The ginger bug starter can also be used to make from scratch fermented fruit and tea sodas such as the grapefruit soda I used in my La Paloma recipe. I have already provided the from scratch recipe for the lemon myrtle ginger beer and helpful tips on how to make and maintain a ginger bug starter in my previous post on Lemon myrtle ginger beer spiders. It does take some time to make the ginger bug starter and ferment your own ginger beer, but it is well worth the time and effort as the ginger beer has a far superior flavour than store bought versions. Making your own ginger beer from scratch is a great slow living project that yields amazing refreshing drinks. I will add that in hotter weather especially I recommend allowing head room in your swing top bottles and releasing the caps at least once daily to avoid carbon dioxide building up inside the bottles.
Pickle gin buck cocktail improved with Limoncello for added lemon flavour and sweetness
The pickle gin buck cocktail is improved, following Simon Difford’s (2019) advice in his amazing article The Buck/Gin Buck, by the addition of a bar spoon of limoncello. This adds a punch of strong lemon flavour and sweetness that helps to balance this cocktail – as the homemade ginger beer has a strong ginger flavour spiced with lemon myrtle and cinnamon – the ginger bug having consumed most of the sugar during the fermentation process. The limoncello adds a layer of complexity and depth to the standard buck recipe for more intense lemon and sweetness that plays well with the spiciness of the ginger beer, tart fresh lemon juice and the botanicals of the gin.
Pickle Gin Buck Cocktail: London Buck, BuckPrint Recipe
- 1 ½ shots gin
- ½ shot fresh lemon juice
- Fresh lemon wedge
- 1 bar spoon limoncello
- Lemon myrtle ginger beer (from scratch recipe and tips available at this link)
- 3-4 ice cubes
- Glassware: highball or tall glass
- Garnish: Half lemon wheel and sprig of fresh lemon balm
Add fresh lemon juice, lemon wedge, gin and limoncello to a highball or tall glass
Add 3-4 ice cubes
Stir with a long handled bar spoon
Top with lemon myrtle ginger beer
Garnish with a half wheel of fresh lemon and a sprig of fresh lemon balm
Bartenders’ Association of America (1912-1913). Bartenders’ Manual. W.T. Bishop.
Tom Bullock (1917). The Ideal Bartender. Tom Bullock: St. Louis.
Harry Craddock (1930). The Savoy Cocktail Book. Dover: New York.
Tim Daly (1903). Daly’s bartenders' encyclopaedia. Tim Daly: Worcester Massachusetts.
Hugo Ensslin (1916-1917). Recipes for mixed drinks. Second Edition. Hugo Ensslin: New York.
Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry & Ben Schaffer (2015). The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: New York.
Gary Regan (2018). Joy of Mixology: The consummate guide to the bartender’s craft. Revised Edition. Clarkson Potter: New York.
Augustin Rios (1940). Sloppy Joes International Mixed Season. Cocktail Manual. Jose Oriol Ramos: Havana, Cuba.
Jacques Straub (1914). Drinks.The Hotel Monthly: Chicago.
David Wondrich (2015). Imbibe. Perigree: New York.
Online Buck, Buck variation, Ginger Cooler & Highball recipes
Simon Difford (2019). The Buck/Gin Buck. In Difford’s Guide.
Simon Difford (2019). Gin Gin Mule. In Difford’s Guide.
Liquor.com Gin Buck. In Liquor.com
Collen Graham (2019). The Gin Buck: An Easy Gin and Ginger Ale Drink. In The Spruce Eats.
Robert Simonson (2016). Gin-Gin Mule. Adapted from Robert Simonson (2016). A Proper Drink. In Punch.