My introduction to the Horsefeather was a slightly bastardized version of the classic cocktail, but I drank it anyway. I was at a gallery opening on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and it was sponsored by Dewars. Scantily-clad, malnourished women were mixing one-part Dewars and one-part ginger ale. I didn’t want anything to do with Scotch at the time (though I was well beyond my Sour Apple Pucker phase by this point, thank you very much) but since it was free, and the only drink available, I went for it. And went for it. And went for it. I don’t even know how many I put in my mouth at that event, but by the end of the night, I was hooked. Well, mostly. I could never really get it up for Scotch, so “Jameson and ginger” became my cocktail of choice. Believe me, I felt pret-ty sophisticated when I ordered it.
Over the years, I moved away from the mixers and settled on my current favorite: Old Overholt (a delicious, super-moderately-priced rye) on the rocks. But a few years ago, when researching Prohibition-era cocktails for an article, I was introduced to the Horsefeather at Harry’s Bar & Tables in Westport (or, as I like to call it, Harry’s Horsefeather).
For the article, I was taking a sabbatical from my six-month drinking sabbatical, and even though I told myself I’d have just one, “for research,” that night I could not stop pouring those things into my mouth. Why? Because of the ingredients. While I recently pretended to know what goes into a Manhattan, I definitely know what goes into a Horsefeather: Whiskey, ginger beer, and a dash of bitters. But here’s the thing: Harry’s uses REAL GINGER BEER, people! Real. Like, so real it burns your throat, in a good way. That might sound scary to you, but just go with it. The things that happen in your mouth when you have a chilled cocktail that burns a little is so invigorating. And it’s just damn good. The ratio of this REAL GINGER BEER to whiskey is perfect, and the dash of bitters just adds a little somethin’ somethin’ to this already practically perfect cocktail. Honestly, I don’t even know what kind of whiskey Harry’s uses in its Horsefeather, and I don’t really care. [Update: Harry's uses Jim Beam, and actually withholds the bitters because the ginger beer is so flavorful.]
Now, when I go to a place that I know always has real ginger beer behind the bar, like Bluestem, I can’t help but order a Horsefeather or two, or three, or four, and then proceed to put them all in my mouth as they arrive at my table — but, you know, responsibly.
Still, my favorite Horsefeather in all the land is Harry’s. PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!
P.S. You’re probably starting to think we’re a bunch of alcoholics. You might be right.