Kinship & Kombucha: The Summit House ‘Mule of the Moment’

The Moscow mule, which this year celebrates its 75th birthday, was born much closer to Summit, New Jersey, than to Russia or even California, where it gained its popularity.

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The copper-mugged cocktail was invented in 1941 at New York’s Chatham Hotel, a result of three friends’ curiosity as to what would happen if Smirnoff vodka was mixed with Cock ‘n’ Bull ginger beer, which had just arrived on the East Coast from Los Angeles.

Curiosity and friendship are also key ingredients of the Summit House kitchen as we prep for our early 2017 opening, making our version of the mule, which we’re calling the “Mule of the Moment,” a fitting addition to our craft cocktail menu when the restaurant opens this winter.

With seating for 16, we hope to serve plenty of mules at the Summit House bar, which will be the focal point of the cafe that looks out on to Springfield Avenue. The seasonal American restaurant also features an open-kitchen dining room and space for private dining. 

Tad Carducci, the renowned spirits expert who’s designing the Summit House beverage program, has considered executive chef Martin Kester a friend for almost two decades, having both grown up in Hackettstown, New Jersey. It’s a relationship that will make our kitchen and bar entirely cohesive. The House drinks, developed by Tad, will be infused with the unique, seasonal flavors Chef Martin creates.

For the mule, that special ingredient is kombucha, made by fermenting green tea using a beneficial “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast,” or SCOBY. The result is a sweetened, effervescent non-dairy liquid that’s more probiotic-filled than Greek yogurt. That’s right, the Mule of the Moment has health benefits.

“I’ve known about kombucha but never been part of the production process,” says Tad. “Chef Martin and I spent a couple of sessions working to perfect his version. He walked me through the process, showing me the SCOBY and all the stuff in it, making ginger syrup and adding flavors to replicate a ginger beer.”

The result of their research will accompany an apple-based vodka and fresh in-season persimmon, completing this winter’s Mule of the Moment.

“The flavor profile is unique but still completely friendly,’’ Tad says. “Anyone who’s traditionally enjoyed the Moscow mule or is used to drinking ginger beer is definitely going to love this.”

While kombucha is just one cocktail menu component, don’t be surprised to see it served alone or as an ingredient in certain Summit House dishes.

“Very early on I had it in my mind that we were going to employee kombucha in different ways throughout the menu,” says Chef Martin.  “It’s a nice blank canvas to which you can apply a lot of distinct flavors.”

The Mule of the Moment will be available the moment Summit House opens.