Ginger beer, the magic mixer

On family vacations, I’m the default bartender. Which is always a fun challenge: How to please a half-dozen adults with discerning taste in spirits. My dad is a gin guy, my sister swears by vodka, my brother-in-law digs whiskey and my mother likes tequila or rum drinks if they’re mixed on the weak side.

This past weekend in Oregon, I splurged and bought a bottle each of locally made gin, whiskey and rum (we stuck with Austrian vodka)…

…but I didn’t want to buy a million more ingredients just to make a weekend’s worth of drinks. The solution? A few classic highballs that share the same mixer. My favorite is ginger beer.

Pair it with whiskey and you’ve got a variation of the Horsefeathers cocktail. Pour it over a few shots of vodka and you’ve made a Moscow Mule. Top off a collins glass of rum and you’ll have a Dark n Stormy. Garnishes? Easy: The latter two both take lime wheels, as does the classic gin and tonic — and that bottle of tonic can be used with the vodka, too.

The best part about highballs? No stirring or shaking required. You don’t even need a jigger. Just eyeball it. This is vacation, after all.

Light n Stormy: light rum + ginger beer + lime wheel garnish

Tip: If you don’t have a jigger or are too lazy to bother, use this trick: Fill your glassware one-third with ice, then pour about an inch of booze. It’ll work out to be about two ounces’ worth: a standard shot for highballs.

Light n Stormy
2 ounces light rum (I used Bull Run Pacific Rum from Portland, Ore., which is lovely & light)
ginger beer
lime wheel garnish

1. In a collins glass, fill one-third with ice.
2. Pour 2 ounces or approximately one inch’s worth of rum.
3. Top with ginger beer.
4. Garnish with lime wheel.

Moscow Mule
2 ounces vodka (I used Monopolowa, because it’s my sister’s favorite)
ginger beer
lime wheel garnish

1. In a collins glass, fill one-third with ice.
2. Pour 2 ounces or approximately one inch’s worth of vodka.
3. Top with ginger beer.
4. Garnish with lime wheel.

Horsefeathers
2 ounces whiskey (I used Whippersnapper from Portland, Ore., which has a spicy finish perfect for ginger beer)
ginger beer
drop or two of aromatic bitters, if you’ve got ’em
lemon wheel garnish, if you’ve got one

1. In a collins glass, fill one-third with ice.
2. Pour 2 ounces or approximately one inch’s worth of whiskey.
3. Add a drop or 2 of bitters, if available. If not, no biggie: It’ll still be good.
4. Garnish with lemon wheel, or nothing at all. You don’t need it; you’re on vacation.

Gin & Tonic
2 ounces gin (I used Aviation from Portland, Ore., because I thought my dad might dig it)
tonic water
lime wheel garnish

1. In a collins glass or rocks glass, fill one-third with ice.
2. Pour 2 ounces or approximately one inch’s worth of gin.
3. Top with tonic water.
4. Garnish with lime wheel.

Gin & Tonic: gin + tonic water + lime wheel garnish

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