Maybe it’s because of the weather, but the Gourmand household has been mixing up more cocktails than normal this summer. We’re typically a beer and wine family. If liquor is involved, we trend simple with a vodka tonic or scotch on the rocks. But with all the downtime of “Gee it’s raining for the third f-ing time today” this summer, we’ve found ourselves becoming a bit more creative with our liquor cabinet and some of the fresh ingredients summer has delivered . In the boredom between showers we’ve been inventing and recreating cocktails tried elsewhere. This series is an offering of what we’ve been concocting. Try one out and let us know what you think! Made an improvement? Let us know that, too!
The Moscow Mule was not born in Moscow nor even Russia for the matter. The only thing Russian about the cocktail is the possibility of using a Russian vodka. The Moscow Mule was a drink born out necessity and marketing genius right here in the good old United States by two capitalistic marketers. What could be more American and anti-Russian than that?
John G. Martin had bought the rights to distribute Smirnoff vodka in the 1930s. At the time, vodka was unheard of. We were a gin guzzling society when it came to white liquors. The public didn’t quite know what to think of this smelless, flavorless spirit. Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock’n Bull bar on Sunset Strip in Hollywood for some reason ordered an absurdly large amount of ginger beer that he couldn’t pawn off on customers and was eating up space in his storage. The two were drinking buddies, and as many a story goes invlving the creative genius of drinking buddies, they came up with the idea of combining their two business flops into a cocktail. It was a drink strong enough for a man’s man but delicate enough for a society lady. Oh, and here’s the best part. Morgan’s dame owned a company that manufactured copper products that was going nowhere. The drink shall be served in copper mugs!
At least this is the story Martin tells. Truth be told, Wes Price, bartender at Cock’n Bull, also lays claim to the title of drink inventor. What probably happened was Martin, Morgan, and his dame were sitting around whining about their woes. Tired of hearing their bellyaching, the bartender mixed them all together to shut them up. They got rich. He didn’t.
However the drink was created, Martin capitalized on it. He took the drink to the public using what can be deemed an early form of social media – the Polaroid camera. He went bar to bar selling the new cocktail to bartenders and asking them pose for a photo with the trademark copper mug the cocktail was served in. He then took that instant photo and walked to the bar next door. “Look what your competitor is serving! Try one.” Boom! The cocktail went viral starting with the Hollywood elite. A 1940s trend was born
That’s how the story went until the 1950s when the Moscow Mule took heat for its Russian association (dang commies). Ever open-minded, the equally communistic New York City Bartenders Union, announced a ban on the cocktail. They didn’t want to “shove slave labor liquor across the wood in any American saloon.” Thus, an American born cocktail died in a very American way. Perhaps the drink should be renamed the American Mule?
This isn’t the most complicated cocktail to make, but for some reason, it has been creeping up on martini menus at upscale restaurant and as a standard offering in mixology bars. I think it’s the rareness of the ingredient ginger beer. Until recently, it was darn near impossible to find real ginger beer. No, it’s not the same as ginger ale. Ginger beer is much more potent with a spicy zing to it. And no, it doesn’t contain alcohol either.
- Vodka (We use American made Tito’s to keep the New York Bartenders Union happy. Of course, it’s manufatured in Texas, a not very union friendly state, so they’d probably still protest the cocktail.)
- Ginger beer (Do not. I repeat. Do not substitute ginger ale.)
- Juice from half a lime
- Splash of simple syrup (optional)
- 1 sprig mint (optional)
- 1 slice lime (for garnish
Simply take the ingredients below, pour them over ice, stir, and serve in any glass you desire (copper mug not required as copper is way too expensive these days). There are a few optional ingredients. Personally, I add the simple syrup to take some of the edge off of the ginger beer but leave out the mint. The mint lends a bit too much spice for me. You can also cut back on lime juice if you’re afraid of too much citrus. But trust me, the lime only makes the drink more refreshing. You can also play with the mix of vodka to ginger beer. If you’re going for more of a martini, make it two parts vodka and one part ginger beer. If a back porch sipper is more your speed, then mix one part vodka and two parts ginger beer.