It’s August 27 and no matter how many degrees you have it’s unlikely you were thinking about today’s historic event when you woke up. So to spread awareness of important contributions to civilization we’ll discuss that event now: the day Francis the Talking Mule appeared as a mystery guest on the TV show What’s My Line? Clearly, the Drink of the Day is the Gin Gin Mule.
Don’t be alarmed if this historic event draws a blank. It happened on August 27, 1961 so you may not have been born yet. If, however, your online history causes Google’s algorithms to give you a steady feed of What’s my Line? episodes on YouTube we want to talk to you and advise professional help.
Francis the Talking Mule was a celebrity during the 1950s as the star of seven popular movies. The character comes from a novel, Francis, written by a former U.S. Army Captain named David Stern III. Mr. Stern said:
“When I joined the Army in 1942, I had been publishing a couple of newspapers. I told this to the classification interviewer, who dutifully recorded my civilian background on a large card. They say the Army always finds the job to fit the man. I was assigned as assistant on a garbage truck.
Circumstances led me, via Officer Candidate School, to Hawaii, where I was assigned as Co-Officer-in-Charge of an Army newspaper called MIDPACIFICAN. One night I was sitting looking at a blank, unpainted wall. To pass the time I wrote four pages of dialogue between a second lieutenant and an Army mule. I had no intention of writing more. But that little runt of a mule kept bothering me. With memories of OCS fresh in my mind I thought I might rid myself of the creature by shipping him off to become a second lieutenant. Francis outwitted me. He refused to go.”
Stern wrote several short stories about Francis for Esquire magazine and following the war he merged them into the 1946 novel Francis. The book and later the films focused on Francis and Peter Sterling, a soldier he befriends. Just like in the later series TV series Mr. Ed, Francis would only talk to Peter. Overhearing generals planning things and discussing matters with other equines, Francis offered sardonic advice to his naïve friend, apparently to great comedic effect.
But on to mixing and our Drink of the Day, the Gin Gin Mule. You may recall we mentioned a buck is what you get when you mix ginger ale or ginger beer with a base spirit and citrus, like we did with the Kentucky Buck. When you get down to it bucks are sometimes called “mules” just because of the popularity of a vodka-based buck called a Moscow Mule. And, of course, there are cocktails with the word mule in their name that don’t follow this formula at all, like the Missouri Mule. We recommend ginger beer over ginger ale for its sharper ginger flavor, and anything vodka can do gin can do better. That’s why the Gin Gin Mule is Drink of the Day: it’s better.
Invented by Audrey Saunders it became a signature drink at her New York bar, the Pegu Club. This is one of the drinks you can give to a cocktail neophyte that proclaims, “I don’t like gin.” It never fails, they’ll be converted. As the Libation Goddess herself said, her “quest was helping people get over their phobia about gin.” It’s one of the most likeable cocktails ever mixed.
Of course, if you want to get all Audrey Saunders-ish you’ll insist on homemade ginger beer. If you’re that ambitious here’s Audrey Saunders’ Ginger Beer recipe. A brief summary is in our recipe below. But if you use the bottled version from the supermarket for expediency that’s OK, it works quite well and you won’t go the cocktail Hall of Shame.
Gin Gin Mule
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Place mint leaves, simple syrup and lime juice in your trusty cocktail shaker. Muddle lightly. Just a bit, don't slam the mint too much. The shaking later will take care of things.
- Add gin, and and 1 oz ginger beer only if you're using the homemade version, which is not carbonated.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into ice-filled highball or Collins glass.
- Top with ginger beer if using bottled product, or soda water if using homemade ginger beer.
- Garnish with mint sprig and lime wedge.
- Go have a talk with any nearby equine or, lacking that, a household pet.
- To make homemade ginger beer if you're so inclined:1 quart water. 4 oz fresh ginger, peeled. 1 oz sugar. 1/2 oz fresh lime juice. Place water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cut the ginger into small pieces and place in blender or food processor.Add one cup of the boiling water and process until it turns to mush.Add sugar and the rest of the boiling water to the ginger mush and let sit for one hour.Strain into bottle or jar, add lime juice and refrigerate. Discard ginger mush, it has given its all.