On a High Horse

The High Horse cocktail by Shannon Tebay Sidle. Photo by Gina Haase.
When a cocktail tastes as good as it looks, it’s okay to feel a little uppity.

Called the High Horse, this particular specimen appeared a few months back in Ben Schaffer’s article about the importance of rum during the American Revolution on Liquor.com. It is the perfect liquid embodiment of George Washington’s passions.

Shannon Tebay Sidle, a talented bartender at New York City’s Death & Co created this lovely, deep-hued cocktail by drawing inspiration from that famous cherry tree myth we all know, colonial-era ingredients, and the prolific equestrian portrayals featuring our first president. Washington’s enthusiasm for both rum and cherries is well represented within the glass, and the drink’s name alludes to his soft spot for fine, tall steeds.

A tall man, Washington would have been a very imposing figure on horseback. Photo by Wally Gobetz
A tall man, Washington would have been
a very imposing figure on horseback.
Photo by Wally Gobetz
Washington was a doting horseman. Horses under his care were treated very gently. His enormous war steeds Nelson and Blueskin retired to a life of pampered celebrity, and Washington was known to liberate sorely-used broodmares from cruel masters, turning them out to graze freely in his pastures (if only his handling of slave ownership could have been as liberal).

After photographing — then sampling — this lovely beverage, we are ready to mount our own high horse and declare this drink to be the superlative among equine-inspired cocktails.

The sophisticated taste of this cherry laden rum-based cocktail comes from the carefully chosen ingredients.

Bartender Shannon calls for Barbados rum, two different cherry spirits, Italian sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, with recommendations for specific brands of each spirit.

Barbados rum has a unique molasses flavor that is an absolute must in this cocktail. Shannon suggests Plantation Original Dark, but if you can’t find that, we really like Doorly’s XO (just keep in mind that Doorly’s is less sweet than Plantation).

Kirsch is an unaged, unsweetened eau de vie made by distilling fermented cherries. Shannon used lovely, dry Massenez Kirschwasser, but most other Kirsch can be substituted. The cocktail is also nice with Luxardo Maraschino, a different type of cherry liqueur (it’s made by sweetening a dry cherry distillate very similar to kirsch.)

Cherry Heering is a cherry brandy made by soaking lightly crushed Danish cherries and spices in neutral grain spirits, then cask-aging the mix, adding sugar during the aging process. Other cherry brandies lack Heering’s rich flavor, so invest in a bottle (think of future Singapore Slings, Ulysses, and Blood and Sand cocktails).

For vermouth, Shannon used Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino, a geographically protected sweet vermouth from the Asti region of Italy. Its rich flavor of citrus with a bitter cocoa undertone is unmistakable. In this cocktail, a quality Italian sweet vermouth can be substituted.

Brandied cherries are a pleasure and should not be confused with fluorescent cocktail cherries. As mentioned in "A Fruit-full Tale of Presidents Past", we encourage everyone to make their own, or spring for a jar of Luxardo cherries.

High Horse

Serves 1
The High Horse cocktail. Photo by Gina Haase.
This cocktail is rum-cherry-goodness on a stem. Under-stirred cocktails suffer with lackluster flavor, so be patient and keep stirring for a full minute to allow the subtle, complex flavors to come through.
  • 1 1/2 ounce Plantation Original Dark Barbados Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Kirsch
  • 1/2 ounce Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Brandied cherry, for garnish
Stir ingredients with ice for 1 minute; strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Recipe by

The High Horse cocktail originally appeared as part of “The Surprising Thing That Fueled The American Revolution. And The Rise Of Our First President".