The John Panton Drink

You've probably heard of the Arnold Palmer drink, but have you heard of the John Panton drink? If you are from, or have spent a lot of time in, Scotland, you probably have. It's another drink named after the golfer who popularized it.

A John Panton drink is one of two things (it's both things, actually): It is a non-alcoholic cocktail consisting of ginger beer with a splash of lime cordial; or, it is ginger beer and a splash of lime cordial in a glass rimmed with angostura bitters. Angostura bitters are alcoholic, though, so you can't call that John Panton drink non-alcoholic.

You might know that today the Arnold Palmer drink is typically said to be half lemonade, half iced tea, but that Palmer himself didn't make it that way: Palmer used three-quarters tea, one-quarter lemonade. That brings up the question: How did John Panton expect the John Panton drink to be made?

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But first, a word about John Panton the golfer: He was a Scottish pro, born in 1916 and died in 2009. He represented Great Britain three times in the Ryder Cup, was one of the top British golfers on the European circuit in the 1950s, and won at least 25 pro tournaments before adding a couple more as a senior golfer.

So how did the John Panton drink come about? According to the Scotland Herald newspaper, in the immediate post-World War II years, Panton and Irish golfer Harry Bradshaw were frequent drinking buddies on the circuit. And there was a lot of drinking going on among the golfers on the British and European circuits. So it dawned on Bradshaw and Panton one day: Maybe if we stop drinking so much alcohol the night before tournaments, we'll win more tournaments!

They wanted something that was mostly non-alcoholic, but that still had a kick and some spice. Panton came up with the idea of combining ginger beer (non-alcoholic, but spicier than ginger ale) and a little bit of lime cordial (essentially a lime syrup) in a glass rimmed with bitters. They could still go to the pub or the bar with fellow pros, but, drinking the newly dubbed "John Panton," maintain a competitive edge the next day.

So the original John Panton apparently did include the angosturo bitters. Bitters has a high alcohol content, but used just to rim the glass the impact is minimal. If you want a completely non-alcoholic John Panton drink, however, just leave out the bitters and splash some lime cordial into ginger beer.

Here's something interesting and marginally related: The fourth hole of The Old Course at St. Andrews is named Ginger Beer. That's because Da Anderson, a onetime keeper of the greens at St. Andrews, used to set up his "Ginger Beer Cart" to serve golfers there.

Today, the R&A produces a bottled drink it calls "Gunner" that includes ginger beer, ginger ale, a squeeze of lime and two dashes of bitters. A modified John Panton, you might say, and for many years Panton held the title of honorary professional at St. Andrews.

One last note: We've also seen a version of the John Panton drink in which the ginger beer is splashed with orange juice rather than lime cordial. That would probably rankle most Scotsmen, but you do you.

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