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The Washington Mule: Recipe and How to Make the Best Version of It You’ll Taste Anywhere

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With May in full swing and the 4th of July weekend looming on the horizon it’s time to turn our attention to the summertime when the living will be easy, the fish will be jumpin’ and Moscow Mules will add a new and distinctive touch to what used to be predictable summer barbeque fare. Certainly, serving the classic mule is a no lose proposition but if you’re like us you want to add a seasonal touch to your mule that will impress your guests both with its originality and its topical relevance. Well, look no further for your 4th of July libations because we have just the thing: The Washington Mule.

The Washington Mule

First in War, First in Peace, First in the Copper Mugs of His Countrymen

George Washington is a remarkable figure by any measure. Often called the “indispensable man” and lynchpin of the new republic he spent his entire adult life serving his country in war and peace. He was admired both at home and abroad during his lifetime and elevated in death to near mythic proportions. (So highly was he regarded that when he died in December 1799 at the age of 67 Napoleon ordered 10 days of official mourning throughout France.)

Though there were other members of the group we now call the “Founding Fathers” that were better educated, had traveled more extensively or were more politically experienced even his most bitter rivals agreed that without him the nation would not have been able to get to its feet and start down the road we travel today, some 228 years after he first took office. His combination of temperance, courage, common sense and fairness along with his reluctance to assume or celebrate power were exactly what the nation needed in 1789. So if there was ever a figure who should get their own 4th of July Moscow Mule variation it's the man who refused to be king, the Father of the Nation; George Washington.

Washington and Distilled Spirits

But what could a Washington Mule recipe possibly look like? And what ingredients could adequately summon the memory and spirit of the great man? Well, just a bit more historical research reveals the only logical answer to that question. You see, in 1797 after leaving the Presidency Washington was searching for a way to occupy his time productively and perhaps make a tidy profit in the process. After tossing about several ideas he decided to build a distillery at his Mount Vernon estate. In relatively short order it became the largest distillery in the nation at that time producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799. In fact, Washington Whiskey is still produced on his Mount Vernon estate and sold in small quantities.

The Washington Mule Ingredients

Since the Washington estate still produces and sells small quantities of whiskey it would be a “best of all possible worlds” scenario if you could get your hands on a quantity for your 4th of July Washington Mules. However, we recognize that the odds of actually procuring Washington Whiskey are long at best and so feel free to substitute your own favorite brand of white whiskey instead. That said, here’s the full ingredient list:

  • Half a dozen red sweet cherries (fresh)
  • 2 ounces of Washington Whiskey (if possible) or your favorite white whiskey substitute
  • 4 ounces of ginger beer (not ginger ale)
  • 1 ounce Blue Curaçao.
  • Ice
  • Solid copper mug

The sweet cherries are obviously another nod to the Father of the Nation and his run in with one of the cherry trees on his father’s estate when he was a young boy. The story of the young Washington admitting to his father that it was indeed he who had taken a few whacks out of dad’s prized cherry tree turns out to be apocryphal however; invented after his death to inspire admiration for his honesty. Still, it’s part of the lore so cherries it is! (Plus they add the ‘red’ to what will be our red, white and blue 4th of July cocktail.)

Now that we have everything ready to go let’s get to the Washington Mule recipe.

  • Place the red sweet cherries in the bottom of the copper mug (our Red)
  • Muddle them until the juice is released
  • Add the Washington Whiskey or substitute
  • Add ice to the rim
  • Add the ginger beer (our White - admittedly not perfect)
  • Add just a splash of Blue Curaçao (our Blue)
  • Stir gently and enjoy

There’s little doubt that when you serve your guests the Washington Mule this 4th of July weekend it will be the hit of your celebrations and send your friends and neighbors scrambling to find something to top it for next year.

The Importance of the Copper Mug

We’ve seen recipes for alleged Moscow Mule variants that claim it’s okay to serve the drink in beer mugs, soda glasses or even standard porcelain cups. It’s not. The copper mug is as much a part of the Mule as the ginger beer, spirits and ice. It has been there since the beginning and any cocktail that is not served in a copper mug is not a true Moscow Mule variant. In the case of this Mule variation the copper mug has even more significance since handcrafted copper tankards were among the drinking vessels of choice during the 18th century.

Conclusion

Winter is finally fading in the rearview mirror and we can set our sights on making the most of the warmer weather ahead. As the time draws near for the annual celebrations marking the anniversary of the country’s independence it’s a good time to remember the man who, in many very real ways, made it all possible and to whom we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude. The Washington Mule is a great way to surprise your guests this 4th of July weekend and get them thinking and talking about the life and legacy of our first President. Just remember to leave the bloodletting out of it and everyone should be happy!


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