All About Moscow Mule

Everything you need to know about the not-so-Russian cocktail
April 29, 2022
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moscow mule
Crackling from its chill | © Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock

Believe it or not, the Moscow Mule isn’t actually from Russia.

The popular cocktail had its origins not from Moscow, but from a Hollywood bar called the Cock ‘n Bull.

The Moscow Mule happened by accident – a result of mixing two ingredients that wouldn’t sell on their own: vodka and ginger beer. Originally named the Smirnoff Mule, the drink eventually popularized vodka in America.

But is there more to the cocktail than meets the eye?

History

With a name like Moscow Mule, it’s pretty obvious that people would believe the drink is deeply rooted in the Russian mixology culture.

While that’s not entirely true, the cocktail does have some Russian roots to it. The boozy drink got its name thanks to its two primary ingredients, vodka – a Russian staple – and ginger beer, giving the cocktail a snappy spice.

moscow mule variants
© Kelly Visel / Unsplash

Created out of necessity on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard, the Moscow Mule was the brainchild of John G. Martin, the man who popularized vodka. Back in the 1940s, vodka wasn’t as popular as it is today. Americans used to shun any type of alcohol that wasn’t gin or whiskey.

Just as John was about to give up on his business, he met his good friend Jack Morgan, the owner of L.A.’s Cock ‘n Bull bar. As it turned out, Jack had a similar problem – nobody wanted to buy his cellar of ginger beer.

That’s when the eureka moment hit. The two fellas, along with Cock ‘n Bull’s bartender Wes Price, decided to combine the two ingredients together, topped the concoction off with some lime juice and put it on the rocks. Lo and behold! The Moscow Mule was born.

So how did the cocktail get so popular? It’s all thanks to John’s exceptional marketing skills and his Polaroid camera.

Being the salesman that he was, he took the Moscow Mule to different bartenders and patrons all over America, asking them to pose with the drink and a bottle of Smirnoff.

These Polaroids would soon become proof of the drink’s roaring popularity.

Hall of fame

You might have seen the Moscow Mule somewhere in the American crime drama series Better Call Saul.

In the second season of the show, Kim Wexler, one of the main characters, is invited to lunch by opposing counsel, Rich Schweikart, after she was humiliated by her firm.

Rich then orders a Moscow Mule for himself and Kim, emphasizing on the “old copper mug” – implying that the world could be hers if he takes his job offer.

what is in a moscow mule
Kim Wexler learning a thing or two from Moscow Mule | © netflix.com

While she declined, she saw the reflection of herself on the old copper mug – as someone who is overworked at her own firm and will never be free to spread her wings. She longs to rebrand into a new identity as someone who drinks Moscow Mules for lunch.

What’s in it?

A classic Moscow Mule is only made up of four main ingredients:

60ml Vodka
90ml ginger beer
15ml fresh lime juice
For garnish: lime wedges

The magic lies in the combination of the spicy ginger flavor and the vodka’s undeniable strength, tied together by the zing of the lime juice. It’s one of the best fizzy cocktails to enjoy on a hot summer day.

A typical Moscow Mule is pretty tame, depending on how much ginger beer you choose to add. An average Moscow Mule has approximately 11% of alcohol content.

How it’s served

A huge part of the Moscow Mule is its significant copper cup. The story says that a Russian woman by the name of Sophie Berezinski entered the Cock ‘n Bull bar, trying to sell her stock of copper mugs.

And what better way to drink a Russian-inspired cocktail than from a mug manufactured by a Russian?

Plus, copper helps the Moscow Mule feel extra-cold and refreshing for longer periods.

Variants

An Apple Cinnamon Mule, just one of the many variants to Moscow Mule  | © @worthashotevents / Facebook

Ever since the Moscow Mule has garnered popularity among the public, fellow bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts have tried to put their twist on the iconic drink. 

If you want a sweeter and less spicier variation of the cocktail, we suggest swapping out the ginger beer for ginger syrup and club soda. What you have is a vodka ginger cocktail.

How about something for Autumn? Spruce up your basic mule formula by adding apple cider to the mix for a Fall-inspired apple cinnamon mule.

Do it yourself

Fancy yourself a cup of Moscow Mule at home? You’re in luck – this cocktail is one of the simplest drinks to make.

Moscow Mule Cocktail Recipe | © Steve the Bartender / YouTube

For this recipe, you don’t require a cocktail shaker. A Moscow Mule is all about maintaining the ginger beer’s carbonation. To do this, all you have to do is mix the ginger beer directly in the mug and serve it over ice.

© Kike Salazar N / Unsplash

A simple recipe for one serving requires:  60ml Vodka (originally Smirnoff), 90ml ginger beer (we recommend Bundaberg), and 15ml fresh lime juice, and lime wedges for garnish.

Don’t have a copper mug lying around your house? No worries! You can opt for a regular cocktail glass.

But beware – you have to prepare your glass with ice. Next, pour the vodka and add your ginger beer. Top it off with lime juice and garnish it with lime wedge.

There you have it, your very own refreshing mug of Moscow Mule.

This boozy concoction has plenty of character to it – from the gingery aroma to the iconic copper mug. Sometimes the best things in life happen by accident – at least this is what the timeless Moscow Mule teaches us. 

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