Saturday, August 06, 2016

From Volga Boatman to Moscow Mule in three incredibly short decades.

At the age of 19, give or take a few months, I started hanging out in taverns. At 22, I had a part-time bartending job in one. If I ever get around to writing my autobiography, the K & H Cafe will merit a chapter.

More about my golden era at Lanesville's K & H Cafe can be found here.

One summer while subbing on day shift for Kenny or Straw, I resolved to kill time by cleaning the storage space underneath the bar. Big, big mistake, but somewhere beneath the detritus of the decades there was a hardbound bartending guide with recipes. It appeared to date from the 1960s.

Being interested in all things Russian at the time, my attention was drawn to a recipe for a cocktail called the Volga Boatman, which I'm amazed to find on-line 33 years later.

Being three parts booze to one part orange juice -- it would have been necessary to deploy cherry vodka in the absence of fancy liqueur -- the cocktail equally fascinated my friends, and we went through what might charitably be described as a phase.

The old book from down under the bar also had the story and recipe of the Moscow Mule, but at the K & H in 1983, ginger beer would have been even more rare than Kirschwasser.

Fast forward several lifetimes, and earlier this summer it was suggested to me by John Carlos White, esteemed publisher of Food and Dining Magazine, that Moscow Mules made with Cucumber Vodka are incredible. I foolishly doubted him. I should know better by now. I learned that Cucumber Mules are tastier using alcoholic Ginger Beer. Keg Liquors carries canned Wild Ginger out of Wisconsin, and it works fine.

Here's the Moscow Mule back story, and note that Larry "Silver Dollar" Rice gets some NYT love for his bourbon version of the Mule (below).

At Age 75, the Moscow Mule Gets Its Kick Back, by Robert Simonson (New York Times)

Once a curious footnote, the Moscow Mule, which turns 75 this year, is now one of the most common drinks on the planet. Snobs may sniff at it, but few drinks have so completely benefited from the current cocktail revival.

You're batting, Larry.

Kentucky Mule

Larry Rice’s Louisville bar, the Silver Dollar, is all about whiskey. So its version of the Moscow Mule is bourbon based. Nothing complicated here, just good Kentucky whiskey subbed for the usual vodka. Ginger syrup is used instead of ginger beer, pushing the drink very close to whiskey sour territory, albeit one served under a mound of crushed ice.


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