A Brief History of the Moscow Mule

The experts at Speakeasy Co. are back again with #BartenderKnowHow. This week’s installment? A brief history of a true classic, the Moscow Mule. 

Oh, forget the copper mugs already! Yes, the “traditional” Moscow Mule is supposed to be served in a copper mug, in exactly the same way every kiss begins with Kay, and every Charger jersey is washed with Tide, the official laundry detergent of the NFL.

Before the 1950s, no one wanted to drink vodka in America. Until, that is, the (then American owned) Smirnoff Company channeled the power of marketing. As legend has it, one day in 1946 an exec in the Smirnoff Company lamented to the owner of the Cock’n’Bull tavern in Hollywood about his inability to sell vodka. The owner of the tavern related that he, too, couldn’t sell his product, a spicy ginger beer he had been making that no one would touch. A spark of inspiration, a twist of lime, and a whimsically nonsensical name later, the Moscow Mule was born.

But what of the copper mug?

Simply put, Cock’n’Bull served beer out of copper mugs at the time the drink was conceived, and they had too many in storage.

A bartender said in an interview that he was just trying to “clear out the basement.” But copper is cool and shiny, and vodka was brand new, and so they instantly became part of the experience. Additionally, instant photography had literally just been invented, so the marketing geniuses handed out mugs, taking pictures of bartenders and their shiny copper drinking apparatuses. Bartenders posted this new “Polaroid” magic on the back bar, fueling the spread of the classic and their association. Alas, the mug is an accessory, required for neither the production nor enjoyment of a Moscow Mule.

We say the Moscow Mule is a fine drink. It’s simple, it’s spicy, bright and refreshing, and one cocktail that’s (arguably) better with vodka than with any other spirit. If you can find a copper mug, enjoy it. Drinking out of ice-cold copper is super fun. If not, it’s still good. A mule in any other glass tastes just as sweet.

{ this content originally appeared here }

P.S. – Everything You Need to Know About Cocktail Subscription Service Speakeasy Co.

Plus more #BartenderKnowHow:

 

The 12 Best Store Bought Cocktail Mixers

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I love whipping up my own syrups and infusions at home but occasionally I want a cocktail mixer that’s already done for me, ready to go. This mostly happens when I’m either a. traveling or b. mixing cocktails for a big group of people. Say we’re staying at an Airbnb for a few days – I’d much rather buy something fun and pre-made than bring along honey, sugar, herbs, etc. etc. for a homemade syrup or mixer. And when I know I’ve got a large group coming over, pre-made mixes are my best friend (just don’t tell my friends! 😉 ). There are so many high quality cocktail mixers, syrups, cordials and the like out there now days, it seems criminal that I haven’t written a post on my favorites until now. Below you’ll find all of my favorite cocktail mixers that you can find right at your local grocer or liquor store. Or via my favorite way of procuring items I probably don’t need but nonetheless want, Amazon!

1. Favorite Soda Water | Boylan Heritage Club Soda

This is the clean, crisp soda water I reach for again and again. It also happens to have super sleek, minimalist packaging thanks to the geniuses at W&P Design. Win-win!

2. Favorite Tonic Water | Fever Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic Water

I love a splash tonic water to finish a gin or tequila cocktail but I just hate the high sugar content. This “naturally light” tonic from Fever Tree has half the sugar of other brands yet still maintains that quintessential quinine punchiness.

3. Favorite Ginger Beer | East Imperial Mombasa Ginger Beer

This is – no joke – the best ginger beer I’ve ever tasted. Not sure if it’s just me, but I find most widely available ginger beers either way too sweet or way too spicy. This East Imperial is the Goldilocks of ginger beers. Tons of fresh, true ginger flavor without being too spicy plus the perfect amount of sweetness. And the best part? That spicy ginger heat lingers just long enough to make you want the next sip.

4. Favorite Margarita Mix | Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix

This has been my go-to marg mix for years. I can usually find it at Costco (always a plus) and I love that it uses all natural and organic ingredients. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have that awful artificial taste that most margarita mixes suffer from.

5. Favorite Bloody Mary Mix | Powell & Mahoney Bloody Mary Mix

I’m not a huge Bloody Mary drinker but this mix is a real crowd pleaser. It provides a great canvas for adding your own personal twist with hot sauces or other ingredients but is also robust enough on it’s own.

6. Favorite Flavored Simple Syrup | Royal Rose Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

The syrup I make most at home is lavender honey simple syrup, (You may remember seeing me call for it here and here!) but I’m well aware that most folks don’t have the time or the desire to go out and buy culinary lavender to make their own. That’s precisely why I love that I can recommend this brand of syrups for those who’d rather buy something than make it themselves. Royal Rose has tons of incredible flavors beyond the lavender I’ve linked to above and all are made in super small batches. Their Rose is another favorite of mine.

7. Favorite Mixer for Whiskey Cocktails | White Whale Auntie’s Old Fashioned Bold Mixer

Made with youngberries, pear and rosemary, this is an epic ready-to-drink twist on an Old Fashioned. Might want to buy two.

8. Favorite Big Batch Cocktail Starter | American Juice Company Lady Lychee Cocktail Blend

Developed originally for Michelin Starred chefs, this high end cocktail mixer is comprised of strawberries, lychees and rose petals. Simply combine a bottle of this with approx. 750 mL of your preferred spirit and top with soda water for a quick and insanely impressive big batch cocktail!

9. Favorite Shrub | Pok Pok Som Thai Basil Drinking Vinegar

Have you eaten at Pok Pok?! If you haven’t, I recommend you get your ass to Portland, Los Angeles or NYC and do so IMMEDIATELY. Chef Andy Ricker’s authentic af northern Thai food is the stuff of dreams and his cocktail programs are equally as impressive. The fact that his drinking vinegars, or shrubs as they’re also called, are available for at-home consumption is an absolute Christmas miracle.

10. Favorite Elevated Tonic | Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic Syrup

When you’re looking for a little something extra in your next G&T, look no further. This elderflower tonic syrup is gorgeous and floral without being too cloying. Just mix gin (or vodka) with this elderflower tonic syrup and sparkling water and you’ve got an upscale cocktail worthy of the fanciest dinner party.

11. Favorite “Instant Craft Cocktail” Mixer | Belvoir Elderflower and Rose Lemonade

This beautiful rose and elderflower lemonade from the UK’s Belvoir fruit farms is a serious workhorse. All you have to do is add a jigger of your spirit of choice and Boom! – you instantly have a craft cocktail bar worthy libation at your finger tips.

12. Favorite Wildcard Cocktail Ingredient | Liber & Co. Pineapple Gum Syrup

If you’re a fan of the Tiki movement or Tiki-esque cocktails in general, this is the thing for you! This tropical fruit laden cocktail syrup (it’s 60% fresh pineapple juice!) is a must for mixing up island-inspired classics like a Jungle Bird or putting a fresh spin on Margaritas.

{ What are your favorite store bought cocktail mixers? I’d love to hear. Top image via. }

Raspberry Rose Hip Gin Lemonade

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One of the products I want to jump into R&D for as soon as we get the distillery open is my own spin on a classic sloe gin! Sloe gin, or sloe gin liqueur as it’s sometimes referred to, is gin that has been allowed to sit with sloe berries for days, weeks or even months. Sloe berries are tiny, very tart (rather unpleasant tasting, actually) berries that grow in hedges all over England. Once the distiller has a finished gin, he or she dumps a whole mess of berries into the spirit and allows them to steep for a period of time and not only do they impart a lovely earthy, tart flavor but also turn the gin a stunning dark cranberry color. Because the sloe berries are naturally tart and rather astringent on their own, a small amount of sugar may be added after the berries are strained out and before bottling.

As you might imagine sloe berries are very difficult to find in the states, however, a few American distillers have managed to either grow, find or import the tart tiny fruit and take their own stab at the British classic. My personal favorite stateside rendition is by Spirit Works in Sebastopol, CA. Their Sloe Gin and barrel-aged Sloe Gin are some of the most successful American takes on traditional spirits I’ve tasted. If you happen to spot either, definitely pick up a bottle! A classic (and probably the most easily accessible) Sloe Gin would be Plymouth Sloe Gin, another excellent choice.

Obviously the Brits were on to something taking a borderline inedible fruit and soaking it in booze to make it palatable, but theoretically the method could be adapted for any type of berry. Sloe-style gin with local San Diego strawberries, anyone?! 😉 Or in today’s post’s case, raspberries! I had a couple gallons or so of a less-than-successful R&D gin run and was thinking of ways I could repurpose it without running it back through the still (to completely neutralize). The only issue with the gin was that the rose hip was overpowering all the other botanicals, but otherwise it was completely drinkable. An underrated flavor pairing – imo – is raspberry and rose, so I decided to dump the pint of forgotten raspberries from the back of my crisper drawer into the rose hip heavy gin and see what happened. Spoiler alert: what happened was delicious and beautiful! And the best part is you don’t have to be a distiller to have your own sloe-style gin at home. Just take whatever gin you have (or vodka), throw in your berries of choice, and let it steep! I let mine go for a few weeks but taste every few days until your desired flavor profile is achieved. More info on the process below.

This cocktail is a seriously delicious way to enjoy any type of sloe gin. The muddled raspberries and lemon juice create the most luxurious layer of creamy foam on top and the color, omg. It’s just so good. Use a traditional sloe gin and this transforms from a refreshing summer cocktail to a rich and complex fall tipple. Enjoy!

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Raspberry Rose Hip Gin Lemonade. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 5 raspberries
  • 2 oz raspberry rose hip gin (recipe to follow), can substitute with your favorite Sloe Gin
  • 3 oz fresh honey lemonade (recipe to follow), can substitute with your favorite store bought lemonade

Directions:

  1. Muddle 4 raspberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker
  2. Add gin, lemonade and ice.
  3. Shake for ten seconds, strain into a glass over fresh ice
  4. Garnish with remaining raspberry and enjoy!

Raspberry Rose Hip Gin: Gently muddle one 6 oz. clamshell of organic raspberries with a heaping tablespoon of dried culinary rose hips (I get mine my local home brew shop). Add 25-30 oz. of your favorite gin, seal and shake vigorously. Store in a cool dry place for two weeks or longer, shaking daily. When the flavor is to your liking, strain and discard solids.

Fresh Honey Lemonade: Combine 1 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 cup honey simple syrup (1/2 cup each honey and water, simmered over low heat until homogeneous), and 2-3 cups cold filtered water. Stir or shake to combine.

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Ballast Point Gin & Tonic

Distillerista-Ballast-Point-GT-RTDI first heard canned cocktails were in the works for Ballast Point when I interviewed for a distilling position there years ago. Emotions were mixed upon hearing the news: Canned cocktails? RTDs? In the US? (Traditionally, stats have shown Americans don’t exactly jump for joy re: pre-mixed drinks) I mean I know your Ballast f-ing Point, but you really think you can make that work? #LOLZ… Well guys, they worked. They’re low-key all over grocery stores and liquor stores here in California and to add insult to injury, my local Trader Joes has a whole area permanently dedicated to the colorful 6-packs of all four canned cocktail iterations: Bloody Mary, Rum & Cola, Rum & Ginger and Gin & Tonic. At this point, I think it’s safe to say things are changing on this side of the pond. RTDs (ready to drink, pre-mixed alcoholic beverages) are here to stay stateside and Ballast Point’s entry to the market has done a lot to solidify that. With Labor Day weekend upon us – #RIPWhitePants – I thought it’d be fitting to review one of these cuties for your on-the-go holiday weekend drinking pleasure.

Somewhat unfairly perhaps, I always approach an RTD with caution. I never assume it’s going to be great. This canned G&T was a delightful surprise. Tons of bright, spritz-y effervescence hits you right away thanks to the down right delicious house made grapefruit and elderflower tonic. The gin is there but not nearly as assertive as I like in my G&Ts. After a few more sips, I wanted to pour it over ice and add a shot of my own gin, #sorrynotsorrry. It just didn’t pack enough punch for me. Overall, the flavor and texture are impressive and satisfying. It’s definitely a departure from your classic G&T but I think it’s important and smart for BP to shake things up with the flavored tonic. Excluding the Bloody Mary, all of these cocktail are simple, straight-forward two ingredients cocktails, sans garnish. I mean, isn’t it almost – dangerously so in fact – as easy to pour some gin and some tonic water over ice as it is to pop open a can? By tempting you with that elevated flavored tonic, they’ve given you all the reason you need to give these a try. And in my opinion, you totally should. Just BYO flask of gin, maybe. 😉

Happy Labor Day weekend to all! Xo

p.s. check out my last RTD review: BuzzBoxes

Cuba Libre

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Artisan bitters, thought of as the salt and pepper to cocktail recipes, are popping up everywhere these days.  Now if you don’t regularly make manhattans or martinis, I wouldn’t expect bitters to be part of your heavy home cocktail bar rotation, but if you enjoy making cocktails at home I highly recommend you pick up a bottle or two! Very much like salt and pepper, bitters have the ability to transform a cocktail. They’re integral to classics like Old Fashioneds and Champagne Cocktails, but they can elevate even the most basic of mixed drinks. A vodka soda with a dash or two of orange bitters is instantly a better, more complex drink.

Because they’re so versatile and transformative, I love experimenting with new flavors of bitters in my cocktails at home. Lime bitters give my Pineapple Vodka Limeades a nice complexity, Classic Aromatic take my Lemon Whiskey Cider cocktails to a whole new level and Black Walnut bitters send this After Midnight nightcap over the edge. But enough about bitters (I swear I’m getting to the point of this post). The reason for the shameless bitters plug is because one of my favorite bitters makers, Hella Company, has branched out from bitters into cocktail syrups and mixers! The guys at Hella were kind enough to send me a couple of their new products, one of which was this yummy craft cola cocktail syrup.

My favorite thing about these new Hella cocktail syrups is that they’re not sickly sweet like some others can be. They’re beautifully balanced by just a hint of – you guessed it – bitter notes! With the perfect touch of sweet, familiar cola-esque minerality, this Hella Cola syrup is no exception. Not overly cloying while still maintaining enough classic cola flavor to stand up to the aged rum. If you think you’ve never had a Cuba Libre, well, you have. It’s a fancy name for a rum + coke. Thanks, Cuba.

Scroll down for the super easy, 3-ingredient recipe and check out my previous Hella collaboration, Hibiscus Greyhounds.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz dark or aged rum, I like to keep it classic with Havana Club
  • 1 oz Hella Cola Mixer, c/o
  • 3.5 oz club soda, sparkling water or seltzer
  • lime wedge to garnish, optional

Directions: Fill high ball glass with ice, rum, cola syrups and soda water. Stir gently and garnish with a lime wedge.

 

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Thanks to Hella Co. for inspiring this post!

Bartender Know-How: Cocktail Garnishes

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Speakeasy Co. is back with Cocktail Garnishes 101.

DO NOT OVERLOOK THE GARNISH!

“You eat first with your eyes, then your nose, and then your mouth.”

Yeah, it’s an old saying, but it’s particularly germane this month. And, for the record, we couldn’t agree more. As soon as a dish is served, you’re assessing it without even knowing it. The crust on the steak, the vivid green of the broccoli, plump grains of rice through hot steam. You’re tasting it with your eyes and nose before you ever actually taste it, and a good chef will have you loving the dish before it ever touches your tongue.

Just as it does for food, this holds true for cocktails as well. And this brings us to the garnish.

Garnishes…

As bartenders, there’s nothing that annoys us more than going to a bar and getting a slimy lemon or a gross, browning lime. There’s honestly no better way to tell your customers that you don’t care about what you’re doing than that. Citrus wedges are basic, 101 stuff — appropriate at times, but unimpressive in both sight and smell — and if your bartender can’t do that right, how are you supposed to trust them with an actual drink?

Every time we train a bar-staff, we hit this as hard as we can: garnishes should leap out of the glass. Their job — their only job — is to make the cocktail more appealing. The garnish should smell great, look even better, and get your mouth watering to drink that cocktail.

Most people think garnishes are just what’s in those ugly plastic trays at sports bars: lemons, limes, oranges, olives, and cherries. The truth, obviously, is that anything can be a garnish, especially if you think of them as a way to enhance your aroma, or showcase your creativity, or both.

What’s the coolest or craziest garnish you’ve ever seen? Bloody Marys are famous in this game, as are Tiki drinks. At one bar, Linwood Essentials in Toronto, we’ve seen a cocktail garnished with a love poem, attached to the rim of the glass with a miniature clothespin. It was amazing.

{ article originally appeared here | top image via }

 

Spirit Review: Leopold Bros. Tart Cherry Liqueur

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Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased unless stated otherwise.

Product: Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur

Category: Liqueurs

Distillery: Leopold Bros. of Denver, CO

ABV: 40 proof or 20% ABV

Tasting Notes: Jammy, sweet… good cherry pie filling comes to mind. A subtle tartness keeps it from being too cloying.

Ideal Cocktail Pairings: This would be amazing in red sangria but I ‘m also obsessed with using it in place of sweet vermouth i.e. in a Negroni, Manhattan or my Summer Cherry Boulevardier (my most popular cocktail post to date!). You could also drizzle this over ice cream or add it to aforementioned pie filling… but my personal favorite application: splashed into champagne!

Similar Products: As far as main stream liqueurs go, it probably most closely resembles Chambord (raspberry liqueur) or Crème de cassis (black current liqueur) because of it’s red fruit flavor profile and distinct jammy-ness. Heering is another classic cherry liqueur.

Final Thoughts: Amazing true fruit flavor makes this an ideal choice for when you want a berry/red fruit liqueur but don’t want to default to those pricey, mainstream brands. Leopold Bros. products have great placement in Bevmo and other liquor stores so you should be able to find them pretty easily. (Find a bottle near you here.) I simply love that Leopold Bros. uses all natural cherries from Michigan in each batch. The flavor and texture of this liqueur is second to none.

Hibiscus Royale

IMG_3728{ All photos by Bryan Miller }

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you who came out to the French Riviera Soirée at the Westgate Hotel’s rooftop pool this past weekend! It was such a pleasure to meet some Distillerista readers and spend time poolside with friends. In addition to the Aztec Cure I shared last week, this Hibiscus Royale was one of several gorgeous cocktails being shaken up by resident mixologist Irving Gonzalez at the event. The hibiscus tea + cilantro combo is so refreshing and light, I just had to recreate it for you here. Quick tip: I’ve found that I like this drink best with a weak hibiscus tea – so much so that it’s more like a hibiscus-infused spa water. Try steeping the hibiscus tea (loose or bag) for just half the time it calls for. Either way, take it from me: you’ll definitely want to whip up a few of these before pool season ends.

Hibiscus Royale. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz your favorite vodka (my 5 faves here)
  • 2.5 oz weak hibiscus tea, cooled
  • .5 oz agave syrup
  • cilantro sprig to garnish

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, hibiscus tea, agave syrup and a handful of ice
  2. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds
  3. Strain into a glass over fresh ice
  4. In the palm of your hand, smack/slap the cilantro to release the oils and aroma. Place in glass and enjoy!

IMG_3723{ What’s You & Yours Distilling Co.?, you ask?! Find out more here and get this rad t-shirt here! }

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Aztec Cure

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I can’t wait for this Saturday’s pool party I’m co-hosting with my pals and fellow bloggers/entrepreneurs/small business owners Cecelia, Krystel and Kali at the Westgate Hotel. My excitement is partially because I get to frolic around a rooftop pool with friends (and hopefully meet some of you!), but mostly because I get to sip on one of these Aztec Cures.

When planning this pool party a couple months back, the girls and I took one for the team and tested EVERY. SINGLE. cocktail on the Westgate’s bar menu. For research purposes of course. It’s a tough job but somebody had to do it and this Mezcal & strawberry number was by far my fave. I thought I’d recreate it for you here in honor of this weekend’s festivities. If you’re in the San Diego area, I hope you’ll join us for the fun! Tickets are just $25 and include a $25 voucher to Vocabulary Boutique – win win!

Aztec Cure. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberry halves.
  2. Add Mezcal, lemon juice, agave, bitters and a handful of ice to shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and top with soda water.
  4. Garnish with an edible flower & enjoy!

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{ Photos by Bryan Miller }

 

Hibscus Greyhound

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Artisan bitters, thought of as the salt and pepper to cocktail recipes, are popping up everywhere these days.  Now if you don’t regularly make manhattans or martinis, I wouldn’t expect bitters to be part of your heavy home cocktail bar rotation, but if you enjoy making cocktails at home I highly recommend you pick up a bottle or two! Very much like salt and pepper, bitters have the ability to transform a cocktail. They’re integral to classics like Old Fashioneds and Champagne Cocktails, but they can elevate even the most basic of mixed drinks. A vodka soda with a dash or two of orange bitters is instantly a better, more complex drink.

Because they’re so versatile and transformative, I love experimenting with new flavors of bitters in my cocktails at home. Lime bitters give my Pineapple Vodka Limeades a nice complexity, Classic Aromatic take my Lemon Whiskey Cider cocktails to a whole new level and Black Walnut bitters send this After Midnight nightcap over the edge. But enough about bitters (I swear I’m getting to the point of this post). The reason for the shameless bitters plug is because one of my favorite bitters makers, Hella Company, has branched out from bitters into cocktail syrups and mixers! The guys at Hella (not from the Bay, curiously) were kind enough to send me a couple of their new products, one of which is this gorgeous Hibiscus Cocktail Mixer.

My favorite thing about these new Hella cocktail syrups is that they’re not sickly sweet like some others can be. They’re beautifully balanced by just a hint of – you guessed it – bitter notes! The tangy floral sweetness of the hibiscus (not to mention the drop dead gorg color) coupled with the subtle bitter profile plays delightfully well in a greyhound. Scroll down for the recipe below.

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Hibiscus Hound. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients*:

*Recipe recommends 1 oz each, but I doubled to 2 oz to create a longer lasting cocktail. Just make sure stick with the 1:1:1 ratio.

Directions:

  1. Fill a glass with ice. Pour in vodka, Hibiscus Syrup, and grapefruit juice.
  2. Stir gently until ice cold and garnish with a lime wedge.
  3. Garnish & enjoy!

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Thank you to Hella Company for inspiring this post!