Eat, Drink and Be Murphy: Drink up to local history

Mike Murphy
Canandaigua Daily Messenger

In some very quiet corners of the barroom, many swear the Erie Canal would have been an even greater achievement than it was if workers had mules to help them along.

Here is the Iron Smoke Distillery's Erie Canal mule. The Fairport-based distillery is featured in an "I Love New York" campaign.

No, not those kinds of mules, which did help pull barges loaded with goods through the 363-mile waterway way, way back in the day. You may remember the “Erie Canal Song,” with Sal the mule and her “15 miles on the Erie Canal.”

We’re talking about the mule drinks, the kind that many of the so-called mule drivers might have enjoyed at the end of a day of guiding the pack animals, had they been around, anyway.

You may love New York. You may love New York even better with a drink in hand and a bit of local history knowledge to dazzle fellow imbibers.

Fairport-based Iron Smoke Distillery is one of 11 distilleries featured in a new campaign on the website.

New York seems to love highlighting locally produced spirits and tourist attractions, and the drink makers behind the highlighted drinks deserve a toast.

According to the article released by, “Craft distilleries use the state’s agricultural bounty to source the grains, fruits and botanicals that help make vodkas, whiskies, gins and other spirits. So, we thought, why not take it a step further and connect these spirits to beloved New York State attractions?”

Recipes for 11 drinks are listed in the article. For each region, there is a short explanation of the landmark and the attraction connected to it.

For instance, the Albany Distilling Co.'s Red Room pays homage to the executive chamber in the state Capitol, used by New York state governors continuously since 1881. The Hillrock Estate Distillery in the Hudson Valley came up with the idea for the Walkway Over the Hudson, referencing the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, which spans the Hudson River.

The Southern Tier Distilling Co. loves Lucy so much that it created The Lucy, recognizing Jamestown's favorite comedic daughter, Lucille Ball, and the renowned chocolate factory scene from her sitcom “I Love Lucy.”

Iron Smoke Distillery can be found in the section dedicated to the Finger Lakes.

Iron Smoke is literally a stone’s throw from the Erie Canal, so it was a no-brainer to zero in on the waterway that cuts through Fairport, said distillery founder Tommy Brunett.  

“Plus, with mules being the backbone of that transportation system, we immediately pulled out the copper cups to fill them with our famous mule,” Brunett said. 

Ordinarily, the Moscow Mule's potent potable is vodka. But Iron Smoke developed its Erie Canal Mule using its own bourbon whiskey instead. 

Like the Moscow Mule, the Erie Canal-influenced drink is served in a copper cup to take on the cold from the ice cubes. Lime juice and a splash of ginger beer add spice for its refreshing finish.

“It was the mule drivers who helped build Fairport into a really cool canal town,” Brunett said. “Now it’s our job to toast to their legacy.”  

Erie Canal mule

Here’s how to make the Erie Canal mule, which as far as crafting classic cocktails go, is pretty easy:

1.5 oz Iron Smoke Straight Bourbon Whiskey

3/4 oz lime juice

Splash of ginger beer

Lime wedge


⦁    Pour whiskey and lime juice over ice in a copper cup (or any short to medium glass) and stir gently.

⦁    Top with ginger beer

⦁    Garnish with lime wedge

Don't forget to say “Sal-ud” to the canal!

Mushroom biz is, well, mushrooming

Leep Foods, a Rochester-based grower of premium organic mushrooms, has been awarded third place and a $250,000 prize in the 2020 Grow-NY food and agriculture competition. The company beat out 260 applicants from 27 countries and 26 states within the United States.

Leep Foods grows mushrooms on nutrient-enriched American hardwoods in a way that regenerates soil. George Zhang, one of the three founders of the company led by CEO Jeff Adair, developed the process while he was a student at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Unlike most commercial mushroom growers who use manure, Leep Foods farms its lion’s mane, blue oyster and shiitake mushrooms in a modern indoor farm in the Monroe County town of Chili. 

The Grow-NY panel of judges awarded the $250,000 in prize money based on the viability of commercialization, its business model, customer value, food and agriculture innovation, the potential to create jobs in the region, and the quality of its team.

Mike Murphy

Eat, Drink and Be Murphy

The Eat, Drink and Be Murphy column explores the region’s bounty of food and drink — and the people who bring it to you — soup to nuts, accentuated with a craft beer or Finger Lakes wine. After all, who doesn’t love to eat and drink? Email assistant editor Mike Murphy at or call 585-337-4229 with ideas and suggestions.