Jun 18, 201409:22 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
Giving Heat and Humidity a Swift Kick
The easy, refreshing Pimm's Cup and Moscow Mule.
A mule walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Why the long face?” da-da-bum. (That’s supposed to be a “rim shot,” a popular audio device using a snare drum to emphasize the punch line on a joke and used back in vaudeville days. Today we have the magic of the laugh-track. Give me a rim-shot any day.)
Anyway, it seems mules are coming back into vogue. Not the kind of mules that gently move visitors around the French Quarter, but rather the kind you order in a bar.
The Moscow Mule is one of those simple drinks perfect for a hot, humid summer’s day. The drink is ice cold and kept that way thanks to traditionally being served in copper cup.
The Moscow Mule was invented nowhere near Moscow but rather on both the East and West Coasts of the United States in the early 1940s, when vodka was not really the omnipresent spirit it is today. The Moscow Mule helped to usher in the era of vodka-based drinks, at a time when most folks thought of the clear distillate as being only from Russia. Russia was an American ally during World War II, although even then it was an uneasy relationship, before the days of the nasty Cold War. Haven’t we come a long way? Oh, well, never mind.
In New York Jack Martin, the head of G.F. Heublein Brothers, Inc., a wholesale liquor and wine sales firm, purchased Smirnoff Distillers, so his interest turned to selling vodka to an unsuspecting, but evidently open to suggestion, American public. Then there’s John Morgan who operated the Hollywood outpost of the Cock 'n’ Bull Restaurants chain, and who had hit upon the interesting but out-of-left-field idea of creating Cock 'n’ Bull Ginger Beer. Also included in the group that gathered to brainstorm a new cocktail was Rudolph Kunett, president of Smirnoff.
Morgan had shipped a boxcar load of the ginger beer east to Martin, and all three guys had a sales stake in coming up with something that used their respective products. In one afternoon, the Moscow Mule was born in New York’s Chatham Hotel bar.
There was, it so happened, another friend who had an oversupply of copper mugs, and they all wanted to give him a boost. Moscow Mules are even now traditionally served in copper mugs. Invention born of necessity born of friendship with a healthy dose of commercialism.
New Orleans has also embraced the Pimm’s Cup, which is made with an English liqueur, Pimm’s No. 1, an odd choice considering our French heritage and the fact that the drink is famous at a decidedly Creole French establishment, the Napoleon House. The slice of cucumber suggests cool along with the sweet, crisp chill of ginger ale or ginger beer.
In 1859 when James Pimm began to commercially sell his creation, which contained “secret” ingredients, he poured the spirit into a small tankard — a cup, if you will. Pimm owned an oyster bar near the Bank of England in City of London and there was at one time a Pimm’s No. 1 all the way up to a No. 6 version, each with their own base mixture. No. 1 was, and still is, gin-based. No. 2 was Scotch; No. 3 brandy; No. 4 rum; No. 5 rye whiskey; and No. 6 vodka. All except for 1 and 6 are no longer made, and No. 6 is available only in small quantities at the distillery on that scepter’d isle.
The English were quite fond of Pimm’s from the beginning, and at one time in the mid-1880s the future Lord Mayor of London, Horatio Davies, acquired the product and opened a chain of Pimm’s Oyster Houses throughout the city. Upcoming next month in Great Britain is one of the premier tennis tournaments in the world, Wimbledon, and Pimm’s is still a featured spirit, alongside Champagne, with which it is often mixed.
Courtesy of Bon Appetit, 2012
¼ cup vodka
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ cup chilled ginger beer
Fill tall glass or copper cup with ice. Add vodka and lime juice, then ginger beer; stir to mix. Garnish with lime wedge.
Courtesy of Chow.com, 2007
1/2-inch thick English cucumber wheel
1/2-inch thick lemon wheel
2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
4 ounces 7 Up, lemon-lime soda, seltzer, or ginger ale
Use a tall glass. Stir ingredients, never shake.
• The Napoleon House uses lemonade instead of ginger ale or even ginger beer with a top-off of 7 Up.
• Some recipes call for muddling the cucumber.
• Many versions use a spear of cucumber.
• Some recipes call for an additional splash of fresh lemon juice.
• Fresh mint sprigs, not muddled, are often added as aromatics, flavorings and aesthetics.
Many young bartenders, excuse me, mixologists, today look with disdain on the Moscow Mule and similar 3-ingredient cocktails because literally anyone can make a good one, even at home.
As for me, I like simple cocktails which do not cost the price of a dinner entrée. Plus I am relatively assured that my second drink will be as good and the same as the first. My experience is that once you exceed four ingredients, consistency is no longer an attainable goal.
Also do not be disappointed if you cannot receive your Moscow Mule in a copper cup. Seems while the bartender is distracted with other guests, those copper cups grow legs and head out the door.