Issue 28

Babysitting After Midnight: Questions About the Moscow Mule

Babysitting After Midnight: Questions About the Moscow Mule

Well dear readers, I’m back! In this issue I’ll be (hopefully) helping out a few of our readers that came to me with some questions about spirits. The first of which is the history of the Moscow mule, which I must confess, until now I didn’t know too much about, beyond how to make them and drink them.

The other is a little bit more ambiguous. Christina Roberts asks about how to switch up her drink order, which is a wee bit harder, but is definitely a fun question to tackle. I want to remind all of you awesome humans that if you ever have a question about drinks, bartending, bar life or a bar in general feel free to ask! I love where this column is going and it can only get better with the help of you.

So to begin, we’ll start with John Urzendowski’s question;

“I’m an avid reader and follower of Food & Spirits Magazine and I’m a huge fan of your last cover. I’m aware that the Moscow Mule has become an extremely popular cocktail in all kinds of bars and grills across the country. My question has to do with the copper mug in which they’re served in. What’s the reason for it? Is there some kind of chemical reaction that takes place? Would the cocktail itself taste differently if it was served in a traditional cocktail or pint glass? This question has plagued me and nobody can answer it. HELP!”

Like I said before, I had very little knowledge about Moscow Mules beyond the superstitions that surround the drink. One of those superstitions is that the copper mug is used because it changes the flavor of the drink, which makes it better than if it was in a regular glass. Another myth is that the copper is used to keep the drink colder for longer. Through my extensive research (which was really me just trolling the internet for answers one afternoon) I found nothing to validate these tales of the copper mug. Instead, what I discovered was a history of a few very smart men that joined forces, kind of like Captain Planet and his Planeteers, to come up with a great way to market a drink with their combined products.

Once upon a time, 1941 to be exact, two gentlemen came together, one of whom was John G. Martin of Hublein Bro. Inc, a sprits distributor that had just acquired Smirnoff and “Jack” Morgan, and the president Cock n’ Bull, a maker of ginger beer. One night they got together, drinks were going around and around, and one of them thought, “Hey, you have vodka and I have ginger beer, I wonder how they’ll taste if we mix them together” (this is not an exact quote because I wasn’t there, I’m just assuming this is how it went down).

The other gentleman, again I’m not sure who started this chain of events, but it’s all put in the same glass so who cares, said something along the lines of “Heck Yes!” So a round of Smirnoff mixed with Cock n’ Bull ginger beer was brought to where they were seated. It was good, but not quite good enough, so they started experimenting. With what I’m not exactly sure, all I know is that the best combination was with lime juice. The name Moscow Mule came from the vodka craze that hit the U.S. during the ‘40s. Martin and Morgan wanted to capitalize on this craze but wanted an original name for their drink. Moscow, an obvious reference to the Russian-born spirit vodka. Mule, however, I couldn’t find any definite information about. Perhaps they just thought they sounded good together – Moscow Mule, it just runs off the tongue so well.

The copper mug was a marketing gimmick that fell into their laps more or less. One of the guys had a friend with a copper mill which apparently had a lot of copper mugs just hanging out, not being used. The proverbial light bulb went off and viola, the drink was put into a copper mug. In Hollywood the two got many celebrities to begin drinking the Moscow Mule by engraving that celebs name into the mug, making the celebrity feel special and cherished and awesome, I’m assuming, because that’s how it would make me feel. So there you are, the History of the Moscow Mule.

Now on to Christina Roberts question. She asks;

“Jesse – I love dessert drinks and tequila, and at times I am at a loss for what to order. When I’m at a bar that doesn’t have a cocktail menu I usually play it safe with a beer or vodka tonic, I have also had my fair share of a variety of margaritas. I would like to change up my palate and try some other drinks. What are some drinks you’d suggest that aren’t so froufrou but also aren’t bland to try?”

So this question is a little bit trickier to answer, mostly because I can’t be face to face with Christina and ask her my series of questions. My series of questions begins with what kind of base do you like? Gin, vodka, whiskey, tequila, etc. From there I go to sour, sweet, something in the middle? Most bartenders have a go to drink after you’ve answered these questions. Christina, since you like tequila, and margaritas, I might suggest something along the lines of a pink tequila gimlet. This consists of your favorite tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and Peychauds bitters.

-1 ½ oz tequila

-1 oz lime

-1 oz (or to taste) simple syrup

– 4 to 5 dashes Peychauds bitters

This drink will be nicely sweet, sour with a nice balance of crisp bitters to balance everything, plus it becomes a gorgeous pink hue.

If you’re feeling savory, most bars have the ingredients to make Bloody Marys. A great version of this is the Bloody Maria. If you want to make this at home it’s not too hard either. In fact it’s a great way to impress friends. You need a few ingredients but this is most definitely a drink that is fun to experiment with. When I make these at home I use an inexpensive, but descent tequila such as Sauza or El Cabrito, but again get whatever kind of tequila you like the most for the price point you want to spend.

You’ll also need tomato, or clamato, juice if you enjoy clams. This drink is excellent with either choice. Add some basic spice ingredients from your spice cabinet like dill, garlic salt/powder, pepper, etc. In all honesty this is the point where you get to go wild and be the chemist in the drink kitchen. Add everything or nothing at all, experiment and figure out what you like. One of my favorite spices to add is a delicious Spanish smoked paprika that I found at Penzey Spices. It adds a yummy smoky, slightly sweet spice flavor. It’s my favorite spice in my arsenal.

However, don’t forget the salted rim, lime juice and your favorite hot sauce to make it nice and spicy. With this drink, the proportions are up to your taste buds, with the exception of the tequila. With this drink you should use between 1 ½ oz to 2 oz of tequila, but from there on out have fun. Add one thing, try it, add another, try it, and continue with this until you’ve made the most fantastic Bloody Maria ever. And when you make it, let me know because I’ll want to try it!

If you’re in a whiskey mood, a Horse feather is yummy. Most bartenders should know this one, but if not, it’s pretty simple. It’s Jameson or any Irish whiskey, ginger beer, bitter and a lime wedge. For a vodka drink perhaps try a vodka Collins. It’s basically vodka with fresh lemonade. This drink is really refreshing and very easy to drink. It consists of vodka, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup and topped with soda water. If you like gin, try a gin Gibson. This is another easy drink to concoct; it consists of gin, dry vermouth and a cocktail onion. It’s incredibly flavorful and a popular drink from the ‘50’s.

Christina, I hope this helped you a little bit, if not, always ask the bartender that’s helping you. They’ll be able to help you, and should be more than happy, to make you a drink that you’ll love and that’s new to you. If they don’t want to, come find me and we’ll have fun with alcohol together until we find you a drink.

We’ll all of my loves, I hope this has been yet another fun and informational article for you. It was most definitely a fun one to write and I must thank, from the bottom of my heart, John and Christina for these awesome questions. It was fun to research the history of the Moscow Mule, something that will most definitely be fun to tell the patrons of the bars I work in. I’ll seem really smart, thanks John! And to Christina, I had so much fun answering your question and getting back to the drinks, that I not only love to drink, but the ones I thoroughly enjoy to make. I hope you have fun trying my suggestions and I hope you let me know if you like any of them. For any of you who have a question, please feel free to ask!

Jesse Erickson

Jesse Erickson

I’m the college drop out that ended up falling into a job that I love, which is bartending. I was majoring in English Lit, which is why I love to write. And since I know booze, what better thing to write about? I also have the cutest puppy that has ever existed.


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