Chef Thomas Chen’s Asian-inflected East Village spot, Tuome (536 East 5th Street; 646-833-7811) may not have a full liquor license, but that doesn’t stop general manager Brandon Fults from whipping up some creative cocktails. One favorite? The moscow mule, a drink that for Fults “goes way back, before I could drink alcohol.”
Popular in his parents’ generation, the drink was one of the first Fults remembers hearing about — a memory that came in handy when he found himself behind the bar of Chen’s ingredient-driven eatery. However, the journey of finding the right cocktails to make wasn’t so cut-and-dry. Fults tells the Voice that, like many professionals behind the bar, he had a learning curve to overcome. “I really didn’t understand alcohol. I wanted something that was sweet. Now I like drinks that almost have no sugar at all.”
Aside from personal taste, Fults recommended a moscow mule for Chen’s menu because it tends to go well with many dishes, and because — quite simply — it’s refreshing. While Fults enjoyed the challenge of building a low-alcohol cocktail menu from the ground up, how was he able to evoke a taste of Moscow without vodka? “I replace the vodka with a dry vermouth and sherry. It gives a very similar flavor profile,” Fults reveals. With ginger beer as the base ingredient in the equation, Fults built the drink around finding the perfect balance between it and other flavor components. After trying almost 40 different kinds of ginger beer, he settled on one that had an element of spice without being overbearing.
“The other thing that helps is bitters,” Fults notes. More and more home bartenders are playing around with bitters these days; experimenting with their different flavors can help to soften the blow of the missing vodka in this drink. Although his moscow mule is simple enough to make at home, Fults knows of a few places around town that are putting ginger beer to good use — he says that “the Meatball Shop did a moscow mule that was really killer.”
Here’s the recipe Fults uses when guests request a refreshing classic cocktail. A copper cup is the traditional vessel in which the drink is served — keeping it cool, both visually and temperature-wise.
The Moscow Mule (Without Vodka) by Brandon Fults
¼ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 ½ ounce dry vermouth
1 ½ ounce manzanilla sherry
4 ounces ginger beer (any ginger beer works, but Brandon suggests trying a few to find the brand you enjoy most)
Add ice, lime juice, dry vermouth, and manzanilla sherry to a copper mug. Pour in ginger beer slowly. Add in a straw to stir.