Bucks are one of those drink categories that stretch far back into history. A simple combination of a spirit, citrus, and ginger beer, they require little to no effort to make and are completely delicious year-round. Beat the heat with one in the summer, and its bright, gingery flavors will quench your thirst. Use a dark spirit, and the spicy ginger beer and richness of the barrel-aged spirit can reinvigorate a palate weary from a winter of endless Manhattans. As Charles Baker explains, the buck also can act as a fine bracer. I will take his word for it. Considering the strength of the cocktails he enjoyed, he certainly had a powerful need for a good bracer.
While it is unfortunate that the term "buck" no longer immediately translates for many modern drinkers, bucks also go by another more recognizable name: the mule, as in that most famous of mules, the Moscow Mule. The vehicle of vodka's conquest of American taste buds on the 1950s, the Moscow Mule is just a vodka buck in a fancy copper mug. The variations on the buck are endless: gin buck, Kentucky buck, Shanghai buck, gin-gin mule--the list goes on. Hey, add lime juice to a Dark 'n' Stormy and you've got yourself a rum buck. No matter which spirit you decide on, the most important part of the equation is the ginger beer. Not just any will do. The easiest place to start--skip the ginger ale. To maximize the flavors and really experience the glory of this drink, you need a ginger beer with some serious ginger kick. Whether you chose Reed's, Fentimans, Blenheim, or Bundaberg, this is one place where bigger and bolder is definitely better. Or you can always take matters into your own hands, and make some ginger beer at home.
When I first ran across the Barbados Buck in Jigger, Beaker and Glass, I think I did a little jig. It was like finding a forgotten five-dollar bill in your jeans, a happy surprise. It just doesn't get more straightforward. Granted, as with all Baker concoctions, his buck is enormous and therefore, I halved the proportions.
3/4 ounce aged, dark rum
3/4 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/8 ounce simple syrup
7-8 ounces ginger beer
Build over a lump of ice in an eight to ten ounce glass. Top with ginger beer. Stir gently to incorporate. (I added a lime wedge garnish.)
Notes on Ingredients: I used Cruzan light rum, Mt. Gay rum and Reed's Extra ginger beer and honey syrup.
This drink was refreshing and tasty as expected, and disappeared much too quickly. I blame this on the amount of ginger beer. Once you added the rum, syrup, and juice, even with a "large lump" of ice as prescribed, filling the glass with ginger beer required adding at least five ounces of soda. Thus, the drink tasted mostly of ginger beer with a hint of lime and rum. Either using a smaller glass, or adding more rum, lime juice and syrup, or just decreasing the ginger beer would easily solve this problem. But maybe that extra ginger beer helps this drink function as a bracer, instead of a more potent beverage. So, I conclude, to each his own. And as with most things, the way you construct this drink will depend entirely on what you are looking for. Substituting pimento dram for the syrup or even adding a few dashes of aromatic bitters, as a brilliant red float, would also add some interesting notes.
On a less serious note, Charles Baker tell us that he was introduced to this refreshing cooler after "lying naked on a sugarwhite beach, discussing Gilbert and Sullivan" with two gents he knew from back in the day. I know I raised an eyebrow. But let's give Charlie the benefit of the doubt and say that it was a different time--though just how different, we shall never really know.