It turns out that there's a name for my favorite family of easy, no-recipe drinks: Spirit (any spirit) plus citrus (any citrus) plus ginger beer (or ale, or fizz of choice) equals "buck." The Moscow Mule – vodka plus lime juice plus ginger beer – is today's most famous buck, but there are at least a dozen variants with equally evocative names, including the Marguerite, the Mamie Taylor and the Rye Presbyterian.
As befits such a straightforward "cocktail," this month's Remix was born from decidedly prosaic sources – an observation of how popular kombucha has gotten in Orlando (a dedicated kombucha bar has opened in Ivanhoe Village, though as far as we know, Wally's isn't jumping on that bandwagon) and a need to rid the fridge of some limp, tired produce.
So the citrus juice was provided by some Meyer lemons at their last gasp; the ginger beer morphed into ginger kombucha; and since kombucha doesn't have the added sugar that ginger beer does, some fennel past its prime was infused into a simple syrup. (Boil equal parts sugar and water together in a small saucepan until fully combined; remove from heat, and add chopped fresh fennel. Allow to infuse for at least 15 minutes, preferably a couple of hours, then chill.)
When you're using supporting ingredients this assertive, there's no need to use an expensive whiskey; in fact, it would be a waste. Rye stands up nicely to the citrus and ginger, and the Old Overholt I used is especially robust and fruity (and inexpensive), making it a favored component in mixed drinks.
2 ounces liquor
1/2 ounce citrus juice
Place the whiskey, bourbon, gin, vodka, rum, brandy or other liquor of choice in a shaker with ice along with lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or citrus juice of choice. Shake, then strain into a glass over ice; top with ginger beer.
3 ounces rye
1 1/2 ounces ginger kombucha
1/2 ounce Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons fennel syrup
Place the rye, Meyer lemon juice and fennel syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass; top off with kombucha. Garnish with fresh fennel fronds.
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