A Tailgating Classic

My husband Robert and I had a weird lunch at Heavy Seas Alehouse yesterday. I ordered a Musket Ball. According to the menu, a Musket Ball is a cocktail made of Bulleit bourbon (regular), Bulleit bourbon (rye), a syrup derived from Heavy Seas Gold Ale, and black walnut bitters. My conversation with the bartender went something like this:

Me: I’d like a Musket Ball please.
Bartender: I have no idea what that is.
Me: It’s right here on the menu, see? Bourbon, syrup, and bitters.
Bartender: I’ll make it, but I don’t think you’re going to like it. <pause>
Bartender: I don’t agree with anything that’s on this entire menu.

In my head I said, “you’re not allowed to say that!” but outwardly I panicked. I think I just ended up staring at him silently. He made me the drink. He was right. I didn’t like it. It was good in concept, but as you can probably infer, he didn’t try very hard to make it. It showed.

He then insisted on making me a gin martini (off-menu). I wanted to hate it.

It was amazing. Which irritated me even more. So there.

Anyway, while we were drinking and eating, and because it was game-day, Robert and I got to talking about what makes a good tailgating cocktail. Since you’re making it in a parking lot, you need easy ingredients. It needs to be easy to make and easy to clean-up. We came up with some rules:

  1. You should be able to measure it pretty accurately without the use of a jigger or shot glass.
  2. You shouldn’t have to mix it in a cocktail shaker.
  3. You shouldn’t need a cutting board or knives.
  4. It should have enough ingredients to be interesting but not too many.
  5. You should be able to drink it during any time of day.
  6. You should be able to easily make riffs on it, to appeal to almost any tailgating party attendee.

Well, that’s what makes a good tailgating cocktail. But what makes a really memorable tailgating cocktail? Something painless for you, as the host, but new and different for your guests. The glassware, of course! In this case, the copperware. Copper mugs.

Let’s begin with a brief history of the copper mug. Copper has been used as a drinking vessel for thousands of years. In ancient Ireland, people drank from a copper (and/or silver) goblet called an escraAmerican colonists drank from copper mugs. And, in the 1940s, the Moscow Mule was invented out of necessity by one Mr. John Martin.

John Martin was the president of G.F. Heublein & Brothers, an East Coast food and spirits importer. He purchased a small vodka distillery called Smirnoff (perhaps you’ve heard of it?) for $14,000. Vodka was not popular at the time, and he was hoping to find himself at the forefront of the next major cocktail craze.

As the story goes, John Martin was visiting his friend Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock ‘n Bull pub in Hollywood. John Martin bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t sell his vodka. Jack Morgan complained he couldn’t sell his ginger beer. A third mystery person lamented that she had copper mugs that she either didn’t want or need. The vodka and ginger beer were mixed with a dash of lime juice and served in the unwanted copper mugs. And thanks to arguably the most successful marketing campaign in cocktail history, the Moscow Mule became one of the most popular drinks of the 1950s and 60s.

Robert asked for, and received, copper mugs for Christmas this year. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it did during lunch: copper mugs are the perfect tailgating drinking vessel. They are remarkable, noteworthy, and memorable. They are light. You can drop them on the ground and they won’t break. They stay very, very cold for an extended period of time. A copper mug is the perfect way to elevate a relatively simple cocktail. Not to mention, you can win friends and influence people by regaling them with the famous tale of Martin, Morgan, and their mystery date. Hours of fun. Hours, I tell you!

Now, what to put in it this wonderful mug? Heeding rules #1 through #5, I came up with the following concoction. The Parking Lot. You need:

Bourbon (in homage to the Musket Ball that wasn’t, I used Bulleit)
Fresh blood oranges
Chipped ice
Champagne
Simple syrup

Easy: Make the simple syrup the evening before, allow it to cool, and pour it into a squeeze bottle. Juice your blood oranges and store in a separate squeeze bottle, or simply cut the oranges in half and wrap in Saran™ Wrap so they don’t dry out. Make chipped ice by crushing ice cubes in a Ziploc® bag using a rolling-pin. If you don’t have a rolling-pin, because you live in a corporate apartment like me, use whatever you have on hand. I used our sugar bowl. Store the chipped ice in the freezer until it’s ready to be transferred to your cooler.

Even easier: Mix the juice and the simple syrup to taste beforehand and you’ll only need to bring one squeeze bottle.

Fill a standard, 13.5oz copper mug with chipped ice, then fill approximately 1/4 of the mug with bourbon. Squeeze in the juice of one blood orange and add simple syrup to taste (I used approximately one tablespoon). The mug should now be approximately 3/4 of the way full. Slosh around to mix. Top with champagne.

So, does it meet the criteria? I think so.

  1. You should be able to measure it pretty accurately without the use of a jigger or shot glass. You can easily eyeball the bourbon and the fresh fruit juice and champagne forgive most errors.
  2. You shouldn’t have to mix it in a cocktail shaker. Simple syrup easily dissolves in liquor, no shaking required. Just a little sloshing.
  3. You shouldn’t need a cutting board or knives. Cutting the fruit the night beforehand or morning of eliminates the need for a cutting board or knives.
  4. It should have enough ingredients to be interesting but not too many. In the wintertime, blood oranges are as easy to find as oranges, but have the benefit of being way more interesting.
  5. You should be able to drink it during any time of day. Since this is topped with champagne, it’s perfectly appropriate for the morning. Since it also has bourbon, it is grown-up enough for the afternoon and evening.
  6. You should be able to easily make riffs on it to appeal to almost any tailgating party attendee. Someone doesn’t like bourbon? Serve them champagne and blood orange juice in a GoVino stemless plastic champagne flute. Someone doesn’t drink? Fresh squeezed juice it is! Someone doesn’t like champagne? Don’t top their cocktail off and you’re basically serving them an Old-Fashioned.

You Can Crush Ice with Pretty Much AnythingVery Classy

We are 99.9 percent sure that this cocktail played a leading role in the Ravens victory over the Patriots, so we will be making a big batch of them for the Super Bowl. Boom.

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