Food History

The Classic Tequila Cocktail That Was Inspired By The Moscow Mule

October 12, 2016

Our makers are what bring the Food52 Shop to life, so we partnered with Roca Patrón to feature cocktails we love alongside exclusive products we've created with our makers—like this bee-adorned swizzle stick. Check out their stories (and products!) here.

Tequila can easily feel like a spirit made for the warmer months, dressed up with just a little lime and salt, blended up into frozen concoctions, or wafting in a punch bowl at weekend parties. Perhaps this is because it evokes desert landscapes and dry heat—but that's why I'd rather drink it a little later in the year, when we're toeing the line between summer and fall and I'm hoping for a drink that does the same.

That'd be the El Diablo, a swirling blend of tequila, lime juice, crème de cassis, and ginger beer. The recipe first showed up in the seminal cocktail guide from Trader Vic's in 1946, Trader Vic's Book of Food and Drink. When I asked Nick Dietrich, a New Orleans-based bartender and mixologist, to give me a briefing on the drink's history, interestingly enough, he credited its invention to the Moscow Mule, which was enjoying a lot of popularity out West in the 1940s.

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Nick further explains that the El Diablo really springs from a Buck—a drink where any spirit is served long with ginger ale or beer and lime—with the addition of crème de cassis. In general, though, tequila was fairly rare in drinks at that time, so it felt new and jazzy among cocktail sippers. (It wasn't until the 1990s, he adds, that its use at bars really spiked.)

And while there have been many versions of the El Diablo over the years—originally called the Mexican El Diablo by Trader Vic's—all with varying amounts of every ingredient, mine takes the spice to the next level and renames it with a nod to its new addition. I brewed up a super strong ginger syrup studded with allspice berries and whole cloves and dialed up the tequila. I pulled way back on the crème de cassis (just a splash) so its sweet berry flavor doesn't overwhelm the base spirit or the ginger syrup. I went for the spiciest ginger beer I could find and sprung for cubed ice over shaved. The syrup pulls it all together in my book—when shaken with the other ingredients, it nets everything together in a warm, spicy cloak.

Give it a swizzle and don't gulp too fast.

Roca Patrón is crafted using Weber Blue Agave and the age-old 'tahona' method, where you crush the agave with a 2-ton rock (!). See all their styles, from silver to añejo, here.

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