Mule drinks seem to be making a comeback.
The Moscow Mule, named such for its use of vodka, was created in the 1940s, when a vodka distributor and ginger beer maker joined forces to promote their otherwise unpopular beverages.
Esquire.com describes the scene of their birth at a pub where a marketer, who was having difficulties selling vodka to Americans, was airing his grievances to the pub owner, who was having trouble selling ginger beer. The two came up with a cocktail that would utilize both the vodka and the ginger beer. The beverage is typically served in a copper cup, which Esquire attributes to a third friend having difficulty selling his product, as well.
While the origin of the Mule drink is not very glamorous, the drink itself truly has sophisticated appeal.
A quick divergence to Sangria will help clarify the basics of a Mule drink, since there are a lot of similarities—the main one being that there are core ingredients which always must be added. Then, from that sturdy base, the drink can go in all different directions. The basics for Sangria are wine and fruit.
The wine can be either red or white and there must be at least two types of fruits: one citrus and the other non-citrus. Mix it up in a pitcher and serve over ice with, perhaps, a splash of soda, and you could be done. Or, you can go a step further, by adding another alcoholic beverage such as cognac, brandy or fruit liqueurs and then, instead of using soda for bubbles, you can splash with sparkling wine. The next step up would be to add bitters and aromatic spice such as cardamom, cloves, ginger or lavender. Thinking about the combinations of different fruits, wines, liqueurs and spices, you can see how the possibilities are endless.
The same is true for a Mule.
The base ingredients are ginger and at least one citrus fruit (usually lime) and, some may argue, the copper cup. Although vodka is required in the Moscow Mule, not all Mules need vodka. The Mule can go in so many different fruity and herbal directions; from tart with pomegranate, to sweet with strawberries or watermelon, to earthy with rosemary. Like Sangria, the versatility of this cocktail makes it truly an all- weather, all-occasion beverage.
One of my favorite Mule recipes uses white wine and takes advantage of fresh summer berries. Add some sliced fresh strawberries and the juice of one lime to two bottles of white wine—either Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Riesling—and refrigerate, preferably overnight. To keep to the true Moscow tradition, you can add a shot or two of vodka. When you are ready to serve, add 24 ounces of ginger beer and slightly muddled blackberries. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve over ice.
This recipe certainly fits the criteria for Sangria, as well. Unless, of course, it’s served in a copper cup.
Written by Georgene Mortimer, owner of Island Winery on Cardinal Road. Store and tasting hours are Monday through Saturday from 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. For more information about Island Winery, call 843-842-3141 or click here to visit their website