Just a lime, you say? Here’s a little history you can share while hand-squeezing lime juice for the perfect Moscow Mule, and some notes on flavor to help you decide which lime to choose.
Before we get into the flavor profiles of the two main lime competitors for the Moscow Mule cup, we thought you might want to get to know them on a more personal level.
First, the key lime. Not to point fingers, but this minxy little green ball has an age-old reputation for getting around. Originally from Persia, traders fell hard for its zesty nature, and brought it to North Africa and the Near East (think Turkey). There the lime cast its spell over Crusaders, who spirited the promiscuous fruit away to Palestine and Mediterranean Europe. By the time Columbus sailed, European sailors had discovered its ability to stave off scurvy, and the fruit became a traveling companion on the voyage to Hispaniola (now known as Haiti). Spanish settlers, besmitten with its tart appeal, carried the lime to the Florida Keys, where it picked up its name in 1905. It’s also known as the bartender’s lime, which just goes to show the type of company it keeps.
Then there’s the Persian lime. The most widely sold today in the U.S., the homeland of this fruit is as cloudy as an unfiltered ginger beer; it may have begun in the same region as its cousin, the key lime, making its way via the Mediterranean to Brazil, and then California. Or it could have been a product of Florida, the largest producer of the varietal until Mexico got in the game. It’s also known as a Tahiti lime, so there’s that possibility. Whatever the origin, we know for certain that its bloodlines aren’t pure. In fact, scientists guess that the Persian lime’s seedless fruit and thornless tree are a result of a cross between a key lime and either a lemon or the larger, lumpier citron (we told you the key lime got around).
So which of these two contenders should go in your mule? Depends on the flavor profile you’re after. If you’re looking to add a little more of the old mule kick into your concoction, a key lime is the assertive way to go, with an acidic, tangy citrus bite that has slightly herbal undertones. If, on the other hoof, you’re into a milder bite, the Persian is less bitter and more accessible to a broader range of palates (plus, its larger size produces a lot more juice).
Following in the lime’s footsteps, the Moscow Mule has been making its way around the globe too. Spreading from its humble origins in Los Angeles, it is now in the repertoire of bars from New Zealand to Quebec, Cuba to Brazil, Japan to Paris. And, quite aptly, Russia.