Sometimes all I want is a simple, refreshing drink with two or three ingredients—no shaker required. This one is easy to make yet has a unique flavor, thanks to ginger beer. The Moscow Mule was created by the Cock n Bull Pub in Hollywood in the late ’40s as an attempt to popularize vodka, which hadn’t exactly caught on with the American drinking crowd yet. By the early ’60s, it was a popular drink and vodka started to find its way into more bars. (The product placement with Roger Sterling and his vodka on “Mad Men” is also historically accurate, since clear and odorless vodka was a hit with the hard-drinking office crowd.) The traditional way to serve it is in a chilled copper mug, but unless you’re obsessed with barware, any tall glass will do.
When it’s 90 degrees out and I want a little refreshment, this drink will do the job and do it well! I used Cock n Bull ginger beer, but I also like Fentiman’s, Bundaberg, and Reed’s. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even make your own ginger beer. I used FAIR quinoa vodka, which I have to say really floats my boat. I like a lot of lime in my Moscow Mule, so I go with a shot of vodka and 4 ounces of ginger beer. But you can adjust that to taste.
1 1/2 – 2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
4 – 6 ounces ginger beer
Squeeze in the lime juice into a Collins glass (or chilled copper mug) and put the spent hull in the glass. Add ice cubes, then pour in the vodka and ginger beer.
The Martini is the simplest of classic cocktails. But like almost everything else having to do with cocktails, there’s much debate about what is the “right way” to make a Martini. To me, the only right way is the one that tastes good to whoever gets to drink it. That’s not to say that I don’t have my opinions on the subject, however. So here’s my two cents on the common disagreements … that you’re free to take to heart or ignore. Of course, I think I’m right.
- Gin vs. Vodka: If you want to get technical about it, a Martini is supposed to be made with gin. So if you prefer it with vodka, that would be a Vodka Martini. I don’t care about the semantics, but that will help you if you’re ordering it and don’t want to confuse the bartender. I favor a Martini made with gin, because the flavors of the gin mix well with vermouth and vodka is neutral. But, it’s like your mouth and stuff. So whatever.
- Shaken vs. Stirred: Generally, if a cocktail is made with only lightweight alcoholic ingredients (so no juices, liqueurs, or syrups) then there’s no reason to shake the drink. Stirring is enough to bind the ingredients together as well as chill and dilute the cocktail properly. But some people like it shaken, whether because it’s faster or because they have an affinity for quoting James Bond. I don’t like the ice shards that come from shaking, so I’m heavily biased toward stirring Martinis. (I think you should be, too, but I won’t—and can’t—stop you from shaking.)
- Ratio of dry vermouth to spirit: Some people drink chilled gin and call it a Martini. I don’t know what they have against dry vermouth. I like a dry Martini (recipe below), but even a Martini that uses twice as much vermouth as I did tastes good to me. Experiment and then remember the ratio! My favorite is 4 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth.
- Garnish: Olives or a lemon twist are the traditional garnishes. I like when my drink comes with a snack, so I usually go for olives. But I’ve had them with a cornichon (aka, tiny pickle) and find that to be just as satisfying. (If you add a little pickle or olive brine to the drink, that’s a “dirty” Martini.)
Without further delay, it’s time to actually drink a Martini:
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Pour the gin and vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive or lemon twist.
Photo by Jackson Stakeman
I had this elaborate Thanksgiving cocktail idea. Gin with some fresh cranberry juice and homemade ginger-pear syrup! Maybe a little champagne and bitters?
But then I thought of whipping out the juicer and cooking up syrup while also trying to cook a turkey, mash potatoes and keep the gravy warm. It just sounded too complicated!
During the holidays, it’s usually best to keep it simple in the cocktail department. This classic cocktail tastes sophisticated and special but doesn’t take a lot of effort. Just shake and pour! It’s perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail party or for relaxing after the big feast.
And don’t worry; the elaborate cocktail will definitely see the light of day … after the holidays.
1 1/2 ounces Cognac
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you’re feeling fancy, you can rim the glass with sugar or garnish with a lemon twist.
Photo by Jackson Stakeman