By Andrea Busche
Over the years, Russia has gifted us with many things, for instance Matryoshka nesting dolls; those bedroom-eyed brothers from Dancing with the Stars; collusion in the 2016 US presidential election … allegedly.
But let us not forget about that which is perhaps the best Russian import of all time — vodka.
THE RUSSIAN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Whether we like it or not, Russia is at the forefront of our awareness these days. Today we’ll explore one of its namesake cocktails — the Moscow Mule. Made with liberal amounts of vodka, of course.
Options abound in the Twin Ports, since the Mule is pretty much the hottest drink to hit the bar. Every establishment puts its own unique stamp on the Mule, but there is one thing that everyone from Soup Town to Volgograd can agree on: you simply must drink it out of a copper cup.
Why? Chitay Dal’she! (That’s “read on” in Russian) …
DISSECTING THE MULE
So, apparently I’ve been living under a rock. The first time the Moscow Mule really hit my consciousness was a few short months ago, when I got this text from my mom:
“I got free ginger beer at Keyport today! No alcohol in it, but the recipe for a ‘Moscow Mule’ is vodka, lime juice and ginger beer. Settle the stomach while catching a buzz!”
So, yeah … mom always knows best. As I’ve been chilling out, drinking my craft beer and red wine, the Moscow Mule has become the super trendy drink in which to imbibe.
The standard Mule is made with the three customary ingredients: vodka, ginger beer (similar to ginger ale, but more … “ginger-ey” — and while it doesn’t have alcohol, you buy it from the liquor store), and lime. The drink has been around for decades, but rumor has it that the Mule found its second wind in 2007, when a New York City bartender mixed the three ingredients in an effort to get rid of some old stock. And, boom! The Mule was back in business.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE COPPER CUP?
One attribute you’ll notice right away is that taverns usually serve a Moscow Mule in a copper mug or cup. There are different theories behind the need for a copper vessel, with the leading reasons being that either:
A.) The copper keeps the drink colder, longer, or
B.) There is an actual chemical reaction between the copper and the drink’s ingredients that make it taste crisper and more refreshing.
Fancy that. Whether there is any truth to A, B, or both, you have to admit that it’s pretty darn cool for a drink to have its very own proprietary mug.
MULES IN THE PORTS
Pretty much any pub, tavern or bar worth its salt is serving the Moscow Mule these days. What makes it fun is that everyone does it differently. Here are a few ways the Twin Ports are putting their mark on the Moscow Mule:
FRESH LIME + COPPER
Black Woods and Epic agree the copper cup, along with fresh lime, are the key ingredients in a great Mule. Corey, a bartender at Black Woods, shares their Mule is made with three muddled limes in the bottom of the mug, along with a liberal serving of ice, a shot of Stoli vodka, a shot of ginger beer, and a mint leaf for garnish.
“The copper mugs are key. They really bring out the taste. All of our guests have asked for them,” Corey says.
Candace, bar manager at Epic in Superior, shares, “Using the copper cup really changes the flavor of the vodka and the ginger beer. There’s some kind of chemical reaction that happens with the copper.”
Vikre distillery is the perfectionist of the bunch. In addition to using their own distilled spirits, they also make their own spicy ginger syrup, in lieu of the ginger beer. Chelsy, Vikre’s visitor experience and events manager, was kind enough to share their recipe, for both the Vikre syrup and their Mule:
Vikre Ginger Cardamom Syrup
1/2 cup thinly sliced ginger
1 tablespoon crushed cardamom pods
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Bring to a simmer and hold for five minutes. Chill overnight. In the morning, strain out the ginger and cardamom and store your finished syrup in the fridge.
1 1/2 ounces Lake Superior Vodka or Ovrevann Aquavit
3/4 ounces ginger cardamom syrup
3/4 ounces fresh lime juice
Pour over ice, top with club soda, and garnish with a lime wedge.
A FEW TWISTS ON THE ORIGINAL
Shorty’s in Superior and the Breeze Inn on Jean Duluth Road in Duluth offer a couple special surprises that veer a bit from the standard recipe. Lydia at Shorty’s shares that some people request a half-and-half mixture of cranberry juice with ginger beer for a refreshing twist.
Kate, the owner of the Breeze Inn, prefers to use cucumber-lime vodka. The Breeze also garnishes its Mule with both a lemon and a lime wedge.
If you’re looking for variety, Lucky’s 13 at the Miller Hill Mall offers seven different Mules. In addition to the regular ol’ standby, they feature the Scottish Mule, Kentucky Mule, Royal Mule, South of the Border Mule, a Dark & Stormy, and a Mule with spiced bourbon. The common denominators in all of Lucky’s Mules are the ginger and the lime, but the rest of the ingredients vary.
Whatever your take on the current political … situation … a Moscow Mule is a drink that the Russians and Americans (and everyone else, for that matter) can enjoy together. Consider this fun drinking game I just invented: everyone take a sip whenever the POTUS says “yuuuuge,” “wall,” or “fake news.”
Bottoms up, and cheers to Moscow!