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The Shanghai Mule: Here's How to Make It

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The Moscow Mule has by now been adopted by nearly every culture on the planet with each contributing a few tweaks to make it fit into the local landscape. We have the Hawaiian Mule, the Mexican Mule, the Irish Mule, the Scottish Mule, the Tokyo Mule and the Kentucky Mule to name just a few and it’s hard to imagine the appropriation slowing down anytime soon. As evidence of this we bring you, straight from The Middle Kingdom itself, the Shanghai Mule.

The Shanghai variation of the Moscow Mule is as alluring and ultimately mysterious as the city whose name it bears and made even more so by the fact that within this variation of the classic Moscow Mule are dozens of local sub-variants. For the purposes of this post we’re going to feature what we consider to be the most popular Shanghai Mule recipe, although we’ll also tip our cap respectfully to the many local variations on a theme.

Setting the Stage

Shanghai is one of the largest cities in the world (the largest if you use the “city proper” designation) with more than 24,000,000 residents and a rich and varied history. Settled some 1,500 years ago Shanghai went through a number of incarnations from sleepy village to market town to center of Asian trade with the West to neglected jewel of the East to the lumbering economic giant it is today with its 2,000 foot skyscrapers reflecting the dynamism of its people. That the Mule would find a home in this ultimate of boomtowns should surprise no one. And the fact that the basic variation of the Mule would be altered almost from block to block should also not surprise anyone, given the imaginative nature of the local residents.

The Recipe

And just what is that “basic variation” of the Shanghai Mule recipe? Well, it goes like this:

  • 6 oz Ginger Beer
  • 2 oz Red Sorghum Liquor
  • 1/2 oz Lime Juice
  • Several ice cubes
  • Lime wedge
  • Mint leaf garnish

Add the Red Sorghum Liquor and ginger beer into your Moscow Mule copper mug. Add lime juice, stir, and add ice cubes. Place lime wedge on rim of mug, toss the mint leaf garnish on top and enjoy.

Variation on a Theme

Now the main reason the Shanghai Mule has remained something of an enigmatic presence on the cocktail scene is because, although the above noted recipe is generally accepted as the most common one, it is nowhere close to being the only one in circulation as we mentioned. This has led some to declare that there is no actual Shanghai Mule, only a kind of scattershot appropriation of the copper mug and an “anything goes” attitude toward its typical contents.

Those sentiments aren’t without some merit because you can move from one bar in The Bund where they’ll serve you the “basic variation” to another in on East Nanjing Road where you may get this when you settle into your bar stool and order a Shanghai Mule:

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 6 oz. ginger beer
  • 2-3 slices root ginger
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedge to garnish

Cross the river to Pudong and cozy up to the bar at one of the upscale restaurants in the shadow of Shanghai Tower and you may be served the following variation when you ask for a Shanghai Mule:

  • 2 oz Stolichnaya raspberry vodka.
  • 5 oz ginger beer.
  • 1 oz lychee liqueur.
  • 1 oz pineapple juice.
  • Juice of ½ fresh lime.
  • 5 strawberries.

Is the picture coming into focus for you? That’s good, because to us things are about as clear as they are during one of those charming Shanghai smog events. About the only constants it seems when it comes to the Shanghai Mule are Ginger Beer, ice and the omnipresent copper mug.

What about That Copper Mug?

You might think the copper mug to be so typically Western that it would never be able to gain any real traction in a city like Shanghai. But the Chinese have a long history of copper kitchenware and more specifically, of copper drinkware (for lack of a better term). One great example is the “Long Pot” or “Long Spout Copper Pot”, a teapot with an incredibly long spout that is still in use today in traditional tea ceremonies. The Long Spout pot actually began life centuries ago as a way to serve alcohol to a table full of cold guests during the winter months without having to move. It later morphed into a vessel for the delivery of tea in much the same circumstances.

The point is that when Shanghai residents cozy up to the bar after a long day of work few would look upon the copper mug their Shanghai Mule is served in as anything terribly unusual or “Western”.

The Future of the Mule in Shanghai

There seems little doubt that the hard-working, industrious residents of Shanghai have accepted the Mule with open arms. They’ve become so enamored of it in fact that they never seem to stop tweaking the Shanghai Mule recipe and we can’t wait to try some of the variations we’ve become aware of lately. So it seems that the Mule has found a comfortable home in Shanghai and is far more than just some trendy drink that’s here for a few months and then gone.

Final Thoughts

The Mule has come a long way from its inception on that lazy afternoon in 1941 when two gentlemen with seemingly unrelated needs (the need to promote vodka to an American audience and the need to get the denizens of LA to drink more ginger beer) sitting at the bar at the Cock n’ Bull on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles found a way to hitch their wagons to each other and in the process created the Moscow Mule. Over the years the Mule, served in beautiful copper mugs from Paykoc, has shown a versatility and adaptability the likes of which few other cocktails can match, with the Shanghai Mule being only one of the most recent and obvious examples.


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