A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Berlin, Germany with my boyfriend, Alex. Alex was actually born in Berlin, where he lived for the first seven years of his life, before his family picked up and moved to Southern California. I can truly say that visiting Berlin has been my favorite trip thus far, and if I was able to, I would move there in a heartbeat. The restaurants, bars, parks, people... EVERYTHING was amazing and so beautiful. I was pretty much crying the day we left and have been counting down the days until we can return (hopefully next May, fingers crossed).
When preparing for a trip, I actually look forward most to researching and outlining an informal guideline to follow. I scour the internet reading through personal blogs and food websites, in addition to flipping through lifestyle/food magazines to look for the best recommendations and tips to make the most of our experience. When I say an "informal" guideline, I mean that I'm not writing out an itinerary for every day of our trip; I'm just getting an idea of what each neighborhood has to offer in that particular city. I always, always assume we will wonder around and stumble across an amazing spot that I didn't read about - and we always do.
The month before we left for Berlin, I received my Bon Appétit magazine subscription in the mail and coincidentally, there was a travel guide for Berlin featured. One of the places the magazine deemed a "must-visit" was ORA, a restored 18th century pharmacy that was repurposed into an all-day café. The description and pictures alone made me put ORA at the top of our list, and needless to say it was one of the best decisions trekking there.
Located in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, a very cool and hip area filled with amazing bars and restaurants, ORA is where Alex and I discovered how Berlin does Moscow mules differently than they do here in America. Instead of the classic recipe composed of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, we were served a Moscow mule with vodka, ginger beer, bitters, and cucumber. I thought it was an odd combination but the moment I took a sip, I was hooked and vouched to always add cucumber/bitters to my Moscow mules. Below is a picture from our night at the bar.
After ORA, we decided to walk around the neighborhood and ended up going to a crowded cocktail bar that looked very cool. The bar, Würgeengel, ended up being one of our favorite bars from the trip to the point that we made a second trip on our last night in the city. At Würgeengel, I also ordered a Moscow mule to see if it would be prepared the same as it was at ORA and it was except for the addition of bitters. It was here where I noticed that the type of ginger beer that was being used was Fever Tree, a brand sold here in America and by far my top choice as far as ginger beers go.
My assumption is that cucumbers are just more readily available than limes, and Germans have adapted the Moscow mule accordingly. So today I provide you a delicious recipe inspired by the Moscow mules that we enjoyed while in Berlin. To add more of the cucumber flavor, the recipe entails muddling a few cucumber slices and shaking it with the vodka to infuse the liquor. This step really makes a great difference in taste, so I would suggest not skipping it!
"Berlin-Style" Moscow Mules
Yields 2 cocktails
4 peeled cucumber slices
4 oz. vodka
Handful of ice
4-5 oz. ginger beer, per drink
2-4 dashes of Angostura bitters, per drink
Sliced cucumber, to garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the peeled cucumber slices. Add the vodka and ice and shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds.
Pour the liquid through a strainer into two prepared glasses filled with ice, making sure to divide the liquid between the two glasses equally.
Top off each drink with ginger beer and your desired amount of bitters. Stir with a spoon. Garnish with a cucumber slice, if desired. Sip and enjoy!