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Archive for October 4, 2012

FOOD HOLIDAY: Have A Moscow Mule For National Vodka Day

Today is National Vodka Day. Do you know the first vodka cocktail invented in the U.S.? (If you read the headline of this article, you do).

Today vodka and vodka cocktails are ubiquitous. In 2011, roughly 62 million 9-liter cases of vodka were sold in the U.S: the most of any spirit category.*


In the 1940s, vodka represented a tiny fraction—just $50,000—of the then-$2,000,000,000-a-year U.S. spirits industry.

The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by John G. Martin of Heublein (grandson of founder Gilbert Heublein); Jack Morgan, president of Cock ‘n’ Bull Products (which produced ginger beer) and proprietor of the Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, popular with movie stars; and Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, Heublein’s vodka division.


A Moscow Mule in the traditional copper mug. Photo courtesy Smirnoff Vodka.


One evening at the Chatham Hotel (no longer extant) in New York City, the trio wondered what would happen if they mixed a two-ounce shot of Smirnoff vodka with Morgan’s ginger beer and a squeeze of lime.

Four or five drinks later, the new cocktail was christened the Moscow Mule. Why?

Vodka is associated with Russia;† Moscow is the capital. “Buck” and “mule” are antiquated names for a family of mixed drinks that incorporate ginger ale or ginger beer and citrus juice (more about them).

Why The Copper Mug?

To aid vodka sales, Martin and Morgan promoted the new cocktail at the Cock and Bull restaurant. To amp up the marketing, it was served in a copper mug engraved with two mules kicking up their heels.

Many of the stars had their own mugs engraved with their names, hanging over the bar. Martin and Morgan knew how to use star power to sell a drink!


Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 shots Smirnoff vodka
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lime
  • Ginger beer to taste
  • Ice

    Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a rocks glass.

    You’ll find modern variations that turn the Moscow Mule into a tall drink, add cranberry juice, orange bitters, substitute lemon juice for the lime juice, and so forth.

    But that night at the Chatham Hotel, the three inventors used only vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and ice. Follow suit for an authentic Moscow Mule.

    You don’t need copper mugs, but you can buy them on, with or without an engraved kicking mule.

    While you’re enjoying your drink, check out the history of vodka.

    *Source: Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Industry Review Support Tables 2011.

    †Vodka actually originated in Poland. The history of vodka.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Broccoli Rabe Or Rapini

    Raw broccoli rabe at top, and sautéed in
    garlic over orecchiete pasta. Photo by M.R.
    Kornflakes | Dreamstime.


    Perhaps 15 years ago, broccoli rabe began to appear in some restaurants. Also called broccoli rape, raab (pronounced rob), rapini, Chinese broccoli and Italian broccoli in the U.S., it then became available in produce markets. Now, it’s a familiar friend to some people.

    Descended from a wild herb, like many of our greens, versions of broccoli rabe originated in the Mediterranean and in China.

    Although it bears the name “broccoli,” tastes like a bitter and pungent form of broccoli (think broccoli crossed with mustard greens with some nuttiness) and looks like a relative of broccoli—it has broccoli-like buds and florets at the top of slender stalks—broccoli rabe is not related to broccoli but turnips.

    That’s why the leaves look like turnip greens and the vegetable is also called Italian turnip and turnip broccoli.


    You can braise the rabe or add it to a stir-fry; but a quick sauté in olive oil with garlic is all you need. Then, serve this tasty green as a side, or as a topping for pasta.


    We like to blanch it first to remove some of the bitterness.

  • Clean and trim the ends.
  • Cut the stalks into 2-inch pieces (you can leave them whole if you want to slice them as you’re eating) and drop them into boiling salted water for a minute.
  • Remove with slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  • Heat olive oil in a sauté pan with a minced garlic clove and add the blanched broccoli rabe. It you like heat, add some red pepper flakes.
  • Cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes until tender.

    Find more of our favorite vegetables and recipes.


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