February 5, 2007

Re-Inventing a Retro Classic

Oh, oh, oh! Have a got a great new cocktail to share with you!!! Holy crap this is so good! Paul and I don’t usually experiment too much with cocktails. Usually it’s a Gin and Tonic, or a Mojito, if we have mint. It usually doesn’t require fruit juice or a blender.

As a general rule, a good cocktail doesn’t require a lot funky ingredients. Actually, funky or not, three or four ingredients are preferable. A cocktail you make at home shouldn’t be too complicated. Plus, I want to taste the alcohol. Hey, I’m just being honest! It’s not that a cocktail has to be outrageously strong to please me, but I like the flavors that different alcohols impart. I also use good quality booze, so why would I want to cover it up?

So, meet the new addition to our cocktail repertoire: The Moscow Mule. I first had this served as a martini at a place in DC called Russia House, which, as you can guess, had about 50 vodkas to choose from. It was good – very strong but slightly sweet. The martini contained vodka, a splash of ginger ale and a lime wedge. Then, at Tallula, a wine bar in Arlington, I had a completely different Moscow Mule. I was expecting the same slightly sweet flavor but was given something entirely different. Their cocktail contained ginger beer, which made it super spicy and utterly delicious. It was so spicy that on first sip, I was completely taken aback and not quite sure if I could continue. Then a few sips later, the spiciness was almost addictive. Talk about a seriously good cocktail.

After a little research in our favorite cocktail book, “Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century,” by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead, we discovered that The Moscow Mule was conceived as a marketing ploy. In the 1930’s, John Martin, owner of Smirnoff, and Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant and ginger beer maker, got together and designed a drink to showcase their near-failing products. No, it’s not an extremely complex taste profile in their design, but with a little tweaking, Paul and I made it a bit more interesting.

The trouble was replicating the intense gingery spice in the beloved Tallula version. (If you've ever had ginger tea made from simmering raw ginger in water with a little brown sugar, you'll know what I mean about that gingery bite!) Our first ginger beer purchase really let us down. It was only a bit more flavorful than ginger ale, and that would not do. Our second purchase was a bit better, albeit more expensive.

We were beginning to realize that really spicy ginger beer wasn’t available just anywhere. Since hunting down an artisan product was getting a bit too complicated, we decided to work with what we had. The drink we made of vodka, ginger beer and lime was good, but it still wasn’t zingy. Since we always have gin around, we thought that maybe it would give the drink more bite. Yes, now we were getting somewhere!

In a last ditch effort, Paul sliced up some fresh ginger and floated that in the drink. Wow, okay, well, that did the trick. Yowza, that’s spicy! Although, I’m not sure that fresh ginger is the most attractive addition. Maybe better to steep the fresh ginger in the ginger beer or vodka for a few minutes and strain it out before adding to the drink? Well, maybe that’s a project for the future.

So, here’s what we settled on. Gin? Definitely. The best quality ginger beer you can find? Yes. Enough lime to give it some zing? Check. And I’m telling you this is one crazy good cocktail.

Strange but cute?! A fat piece of knobby ginger riding a tiger.

You are forewarned: If you use ginger ale, you will have a rather bland and sweet drink which requires more lime juice and maybe a dash of bitters, and the same goes if you use a sweeter ginger beer. Use vodka if you want, but gin makes a more balanced, flavorful cocktail. But, I could be prejudiced.

A "Gingery" Moscow Mule

2 oz. Tanqueray Gin
1 oz. lime juice
3-4 oz ginger beer
Fresh peeled ginger, sliced, optional

Stir together the vodka and lime juice in a collins glass (or lowball glass) filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and the already squeezed lime wedges. Stir well. Add slices of fresh peeled ginger for more bite. Serves 1.

By the way, the cocktail book mentioned above is out of print and going for over $100 dollars on Amazon. It is a valuable resource, but... Hopefully they'll find another publisher!


emily said...

i know what i'll be drinking at my next cocktail party!

Lisa said...

I must have one of these cocktails right away. I adore ginger (thanks for the tip on the Ginger People ginger beer—I had no idea). And I agree that cocktails shouldn't be too fussy. This is a winner! (With vodka, of course.)