There is something about ginger and citrus that just works well together. Even in the days of Jerry Thomas, ginger beer and citrus was paired to create a class of cocktails named a Buck. Combine ginger beer and lime juice with any spirit, and you had a Buck. When Smirnoff was looking for a way to get its vodka sales off the ground, it reached for this classic combination and turned it into an iconic 20th century cocktail, the Moscow Mule. They could have called it a Vodka buck, but people were not running to the shelves to buy vodka or demanding vodka cocktails at the bar. It was not until Smirnoff's "Breathless" campaign that people began to see vodka as a spirit to consume. Especially if you wanted to go back to the office not smelling like gin or whiskey. The combination still works, and bartenders are always tinkering with it to see how it can be pushed or what can be done with it.
Audrey Sanders at the Beacon in New York was one of those bartenders. She was bitten by the bartending bug in 1996 after meeting Dale DeGroff, and the rest has been history. After working at several prestigious New York bars, creating bar programs, and becoming an "industry Den Mother", she opened the critically acclaimed Pegu Club in 2005. In that decade it has become a well know hot spot for good cocktails and great food on the island of Manhattan. One of the cocktails on the menu, the Gin-gin Mule, is a cocktail that she created at the now closed Beacon restaurant. It keeps the ginger beer and lime combination alive and well, but adds some extra touches that give this classic some new dimensions.
Gin-gin Mule (by Audrey Saunders of the Beacon Restaurant/Pegu Club)
8 to 10 mint leaves
1.5 oz./ 45 mL gin (Tanqueray is suggested in the recipe)
.75 oz./ 23 mL lime juice
1 oz./ 30 mL simple syrup
2 oz./ 60 mL ginger beer
Garnish: Sprig of mint
Gently muddle the mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the gin and ice, then shake well (20-30 seconds). Strain the cocktail over fresh ice into a cocktail glass, then top off with the ginger beer. Garnish with the mint and serve.
If there is any question how Ms Saunders rose to the top in a competitive place like New York City, this cocktail will answer that question for you. It is light, tart, refreshing, and everything you want a cocktail to be. I used St. Augustine gin, which blended incredibly well with the ginger and mint flavors. I was also in St. Augustine at the time, so the pairing was natural. The recipe, though, does something that is difficult to do: improve upon a classic. There is just enough mint and sugar to add an extra twist to the drink. It is lovely and delightful and something you can drink all night if the mood strikes you. And if you are at the Pegu Club, it is on the top of many people's list to order.