An ex-flatmate of mine – lets call her ‘Alison’ – always makes the one cocktail whenever she entertains, a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, lime and bitters). That may seem a limited repertoire but boy, can she make a Mule that kicks. Moreover, I learned three important things about making drinks from Alison and that one drink.
Firstly, when you’re serving drinks at a party stick to what you know. I learned the hard way, and after wasting a lot of good alcohol, that it’s best to experiment when you have time to get it right.
Secondly, use the best ingredients for the drink because if drinking is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Ali and I both swear by Old Jamaica ginger beer for a Mule – I’ve tried dozens of brands but this is the best for flavour and fizziness. On the other hand, Ali couldn’t choose a lime if her life depended on it. I find the smaller, rounder yellowy limes have a better juice yield than the larger green ones.
Thirdly, it pays to be generous with the hard stuff in a long drink. Ali also has a reputation for making the finest gin and tonic in North London which is largely attributable to her use of ‘Norman’ measures. Norman was a family friend renowned for the strength of his G&T’s – after a bad day, Ali would ask me if I wanted a double or a ‘Norman’ gin. I never met Norman but I think he must have been one heckuva guy.
Mules are a most accommodating drink, easy to make and very flexible. I came up with this variation about ten years ago to finish off an old bottle of cheap absinthe. It makes for a surprisingly tasty drink, reminiscent of Black Jacks (an old-school chewy sweet) and it’s even nicer when you use a good quality absinthe.
The Black Jack connection got me thinking – I’m going to infuse some vodka with liquorice root and also make a version of Salmari (ingredients courtesy of The Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street) to see if I can improve on the recipe below.
Dash Angostura bitters
Sprig of mint (I used black peppermint from the garden but ordinary mint is fine)
Pour vodka, absinthe and lime into an ice filled Collins glass and stir. Top up with ginger beer, add dash of bitters and garnish with mint.