The back story
If you’re looking to toast the Fourth of July in truly patriotic fashion, have I got a sip for you.
Not bourbon, even if it’s America’s signature whiskey. And not the frozen margarita, an icy cocktail that may be Mexican-inspired but actually comes to us via Texas.
Instead, I’m talking Hercules Mulligan, as in a fairly new bottled cocktail named after the Revolutionary War figure.
An Irish native who emigrated to New York City, Mulligan was a tailor who doubled as a spy for the Continental Army. He also happened to be good pals with Alexander Hamilton — and, yes, he figures into the “Hamilton” musical.
The story of how Mulligan became the name behind a boozy beverage all has to do with spirits industry veteran Steve Luttmann and his love of history. Luttmann is best known for launching another brand, Leblon, a cachaça that has helped to popularize the Brazilian spirit. (The brand was eventually acquired by Bacardi.) But for his next act, Luttmann was inspired to think American, particularly after he read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. That’s how he learned about Mulligan and got the idea to create a sip in his honor.
But what kind of sip? Luttmann notes that rum was a popular drink in colonial America, but it was often combined with the more commonly available rye as a way to stretch out the supply. Luttmann imagined that when Mulligan was trying to gain the confidence of British soldiers, he might have had a few drinks with them, so it’s quite possible they were sipping the combo of rum and rye.
Luttmann is clearly hoping to cash in on the fervor for ready-to-drink (or RTD) cocktails, a global market that is expected to grow steadily to $2.43 billion by 2030. But he also makes the point that he is trying to distinguish his bottled product from some of the artificially flavored canned ones. “I call it a craft bottled cocktail,” he says.
Either way, Luttmann is trying to expand the market for Hercules Mulligan, having already completed an initial $750,000 round of crowdfunding. He is now embarking on a $1.5 million second round.
What we think about it
There’s plenty to appreciate about Hercules Mulligan, the man, and the role he played in helping us defeat the British. So, it’s fortunate that the drink named in his honor does him proud justice. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet, and has a nice note of spice to accompany the booze (the recipe calls for a bit of ginger, Luttmann notes). While I would stop short of calling it, ahem, “revolutionary” — I just wrote about another quality bottled cocktail recently — it makes for good drinking on the Fourth of July, or most any occasion.
How to enjoy it
As a bottled cocktail, it’s good to go straight from the, well, bottle — just pour into a glass and add ice. But Luttmann says some mixologists and would-be mixologists are getting clever and combining it with other ingredients, such as tonic water.