There are plenty of reasons to drink, but only two good ones:
1. To achieve that flush of heady, giddy, tingly optimism that comes quick on the heels of the day's first tipple. (All successive swigs are nothing but guileless attempts at holding onto this fleet feeling, although I still over-partake all the time.)
2. To imagine being in another time and place, preferably involving fedoras, topcoats, garters, nylons, evening gloves, watch fobs, spats, held doors, cigarette holders, cigarette cases and the right to make use of all this enchanting cigarette paraphernalia indoors. (I'm not anti-smoking bans; I'm just saying there's nothing romantic about going outside to smoke. Besides, I quit smoking, although I still over-partake all the time.)
I love (love, love, love) The Moscow Mule -- vodka mixed with ginger beer and lime juice, on the rocks -- for conjuring both of these moods so effortlessly.
The story of how the Moscow Mule came to be (no matter which version you choose to believe; I go by former WSJ cocktail columnist Eric Felten's account, as I do with most things booze-related) is in itself a perfect little piece of throwback Americana: Invented in Hollywood (of all places!) by an enterprising bartender who was simply looking for a way to move some dead stock; christened hip by Tinseltown's postwar bevy of celebrities; marketed through copper mugs, engraved with the likeness of a mule, by the bar's proprietor and the man behind a then-flailing Smirnoff brand. Luck and hustle.
Also by pure luck, this weekend my fridge happened to be stocked with both ginger beer and fresh limes, and the thrill of fashioning myself a Moscow Mule for the first time in ages was eclipsed only by the spicy bliss of the cocktail itself. The Moscow Mule surprises me every time I have one. So few ingredients, but such a multifaceted flavor!
The only way to improve upon my positive associations with this drink was to go by the recipe offered online at the Mad Men Cocktail Guide. Barkeep, another round of three-piece suits and pillbox hats for everyone!
The Moscow Mule
(Adapted, with little changed, from the Mad Men Cocktail Guide at amctv.com)
1 1/4 ounces Ketel One vodka
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
Mint sprig and/or lime, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled highball or Collins glass -- or a copper mug, if you wish to go all-the-way old-school. Stir briskly for a few seconds. Garnish to your liking with mint sprig and/or lime wheel/peel/etc.
OK, so I lied. What we had in the fridge that I thought was ginger beer turned out to be ginger ale. The hubs picked it up and, because this is an unfiltered ginger ale, it looked to me more like ginger beer. And, I would say, tastes an awful lot like it, too. I mean, if my choices were ginger beer by Goya or ginger ale by Bruce Cost, ain't no choice at all.
Now, about that mint julep mixer. I want to say that when I was at The Royale, Tonya and I tried making Moscow Mules with mint-steeped simple syrup. As my fridge this weekend contained no fresh mint, but still wanting a bit of mintyness in the glass, I added exactly one drop of that syrup (which is all kinds of artificial and ridiculous, but we bought it at the Buffalo Trace gift shop in Kentucky, so...). I believe it added a little something to the drink -- but again, with a cocktail this dizzyingly complex, who knows?