This classic American cocktail was the creation of, not a mixologist, but a pair of struggling salesmen. In 1941, Jack Morgan owned a Hollywood bar and had a side interest in a ginger-beer bottler; John Martin, employee of a New York-based spirits distribution company, had just landed the Smirnoff vodka account. The trouble was that no one wanted anything to do with either of these new-to-the-U.S. products – particularly the vodka, which was unpopular in a gin-soaked country that distrusted anything to do with the Russkies. But Americans are nothing if not susceptible to a sales pitch, and the combination of the two with a bit of lime juice, served in a branded copper mug, became a Hollywood craze. By the 1950s, the Moscow Mule was a firmly entrenched entry in every bartender’s lexicon, despite its Cold War connotations.
In attempting to remix this classic, I wanted to keep the simplicity of the original and stick with the vodka and ginger base, so the variable became the geographic element. Moscow’s been defanged by perestroika and capitalism, though; we’ve moved on to new bogeymen. This month reflects that with not just one new drink, but a pair of them, a drinkable Axis of Evil: the tart and refreshing Baghdad Burro and the kimchi-kicked Pyongyang Pony.
In a rocks glass or copper mug, pour vodka over ice; add sweetened lime juice. Top with ginger ale and stir. Garnish with mint and serve.
In a shaker, combine vodka, pomegranate molasses and rosewater. Shake hard, then pour into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with rose petals and a “Mission Accomplished!” banner.
* Pomegranate molasses (not really molasses, but simply concentrated pomegranate juice) and food-grade rosewater are both available at Middle Eastern markets. Read the label; neither should contain added sugar.
In a rocks glass, combine vodka and ginger beer. Carefully retrieve a half-teaspoon of the spicy liquid from a jar of kimchi (try not to get any cabbage shreds) and add to glass. Top with freshly squeezed lime and stir. Garnish with three grains of rice and a dash of enriched uranium.
Note: Ginger ales and ginger beers vary widely in flavor, so experiment until you find a brand you like. Generally, ginger ale is sweeter and less intense than ginger beer, but if it’s all you can find, use it. Goya Jamaican-Style Ginger Beer, while unfortunately full of high-fructose corn syrup, has a good peppery kick that makes it perfect for the Baghdad Burro. (Don’t inhale the capsicum-laced bubbles.) Idris Fiery Ginger Beer, far from being as demonic as the branding would have you believe, is actually quite mild, with a malty undertone that is well-suited to the Korean flavors in the Pyongyang Pony. Both are available in the ethnic food aisle at Publix.
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