Drink of the Week

Drink of the Week: the Presbyterian at Tini Bigs

It’s American history in a highball glass.

March 6, 2009

During an interview with Mark Canlis yesterday, the subject turned to cocktails, specifically classic cocktails and their recent revival after two decades of decline. Mark talked about how, in the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a growing awareness about the consequences of heavy drinking made Mad Men-style cocktail consumption unsavory. At the same time California wines were on the rise and soon eclipsed spirits as the drink of choice before, during, and after dinner.

Today, however, mixed drinks are very much in mode and Mark thinks it’s tied to the movement towards authenticity in food and dining: cocktails are, after all, the only truly American thing you can consume. Every “American" dish is really just a variation on some old-world cuisine, but our mixed drink recipes are entirely original, many invented here in the early 20th century and bestowed with mysterious monikers like the Sazerac, the Corpse Reviver, the Widow’s Kiss.

All this was running through my mind as I perused the drinks menu at Tini Bigs last night. I quickly bypassed the cougar cocktails—apple ‘tini, spa ‘tini, choco…whatever—and settled on the Presbyterian, a highball variation made with whiskey (originally rye, often bourbon, but Tini Bigs uses scotch), ginger beer, soda, and bitters.

Good choice, self. It’s one of those drinks that gets better as your taste buds adapt to its flavors, the lime and ginger mingling in your mouth, the cool ice keeping things refreshing, the bitters lending balance. Jaime Boudreau’s homemade ginger beer is potently delicious—I’d love to try pairing this drink with a really good carrot soup or any of a number of stir-fry recipes I have at home.

Tini Bigs dates the Presbyterian to the 1890s. Curious about its history, I did a little research and found one explanation that said the name is younger than the mix itself, and comes from a mocktail of ginger ale and soda that was served to teetotaling Presbyterians so they could fit in at 1950s cocktail parties. Cute, but I couldn’t find much to back it up. Esquire offers up a slightly less succinct history (and a recipe!) here.

Filed under
Show Comments