Short for Presbyterian, a press is a classic drink with many modern interpretations in spite of comprising of three simple ingredients. Served in its traditional style of a British highball, a press contains Scotch whisky over ice and topped with equal parts ginger ale and soda water (club soda). Some cocktail historians also argue the drink is served with equal parts Scotch whisky and soda water over ice and then topped with ginger ale, making a drink that is essentially a Scotch and soda with subtle hints of ginger spice. That said, the drink’s origin remains largely unclear, but it is generally accepted that the Presbyterian refers to the Presbyterian Church. With the Presbyterian Church originating in Scotland and the oldest recipes specifying Scotch whisky, we at least posses a general idea.
Modern recipes cite both ginger ale (most) and 7-Up or Sprite (less) matched against an equal portion of soda water, but the liquor base is always whiskey (Bourbon and Rye) or whisky (blended Scotch). Vastly more often in bars across North America and Europe, a pour of ginger ale is used rather than the lemon-lime alternatives. The 7-UP/Sprite presence in some recipes may have bled over from the more obscure vodka press (vodka, lemon-lime soda, and club soda), which lifted its name from its more widely known cousin. Increasing amounts of establishments are further interpreting the drink by making in-house carbonated ginger concoctions of various names and adding it as an ingredient to their renditions of the Presbyterian on their craft cocktail menus. The irony of the various interpretations of the drink against the backdrop of the Presbyterian Church’s own history of struggle from within is worth at least a modicum of irony points but may send crowds running if you bring it up in passing conversation.
Again it boils down to a matter of one’s personal taste and the drink can be ordered as a bourbon Press or Maker’s Mark Press for those who desire a call brand. Scotch aficionados alternatively would order a Scotch Press or a Dewar’s Press, the later informing the bartender of the desired call brand. Keep in mind, by simply ordering a Press in a modern bar one may likely find the bartender waiting curiously for further instruction.
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