With the current resurgence of classic cocktails, it was only a matter of time before the venerable Moscow Mule hee-hawed its way onto bars across the country.

Moscow Mule Cocktail

History of the Moscow Mule

At the Cock ‘n’ Bull Bar in 1940s Hollywood, owner Jack Morgan’s overzealous purchasing resulted in a basement piled with cases of Smirnoff vodka stacked next to ginger beer, neither of which were popular at the time. Now stuck with two virtually unsellable products, head bartender Wes Price came up with the cocktail, reportedly served the first Moscow Mule to actor Broderick Crawford. As a result, the concoction rapidly gained popularity among Hollywood movie stars.

To promote the cocktail, Morgan had the Moscow Mules served in engraved copper mugs. Eventually John Martin, owner of Smirnoff’s distribution rights (and a friend of Morgan’s), used the mugs to promote the cocktail—and Smirnoff—in bars across the country.

Although its origin may seem disappointingly unromantic, the story of one bartender trying to move otherwise unsellable inventory is one most other bartenders are inclined to believe. In Price’s own words, “I just wanted to clean out the basement.”

Moscow Mule Tasting Notes

The Moscow Mule is spicy and refreshing, with bold gingery fizz atop tart, citrusy lime.

Moscow Mule Ingredients
  • 2 ounces vodka: An affordable to mid-range vodka works well. Here we use Stolichnaya.
  • ½ ounce lime juice: We love fresh citrus! Pro tip: when choosing lemons or limes, heavier fruits with thinner skins that give a little when squeezed will yield more juice.
  • 4 ounces ginger beer: Fever-Tree makes an excellent spicy ginger beer. Remember, ginger beer is not the same as ginger ale!
  • lime wheel: As a garnish.
  • mint sprig: As a garnish.
  1. Fill a copper mule mug with ice.
  2. Pour 2 ounces vodka.
  3. Pour ½ ounce lime juice.
  4. Fill with 4 ounces of ginger beer.
  5. Stir gently—enough to mix the ingredients without diluting the cocktail.
  6. Garnish with the lime wheel and mint sprig.

Note: Copper mule mugs lined with stainless steel, nickel, or tin should be used for those concerned about the possibility of lime juice’s acidity leaching copper into the drink.

Moscow Mule Variations

Due to its popularity and simplicity, creative variations of the Moscow Mule were all but inevitable. A few variations using different spirits are listed below.

  • Instead of vodka, use bourbon to make a Kentucky Mule.
  • Replace vodka with white tequila (tequila blanco) for a Mexican Mule.
  • Using Irish whiskey instead of vodka makes an Irish Mule.
  • Replacing vodka with gin creates a London Mule. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

Moscow Mule Substitutions

  • Different brands of ginger beer add different flavor elements to the cocktail, from thick and sweet to spicy and herbal.
  • Use different flavored vodkas such as raspberry, citrus, or orange for fun flavor combinations.
  • Garnish with cranberries and rosemary instead of lime and mint for a Mistletoe Mule.
  • If traditional copper mugs are unavailable, don’t shy away from using a rocks or Old Fashioned glass.

When to Serve Moscow Mules

The Moscow mule is right for any occasion, but its bright refreshing flavor practically screams “warm weather.” Some events even set out beautiful Moscow Mule bars, with bright copper mugs lined up atop white linen tablecloth.

  • Warm weather/outdoor activities: Whether golfing, boating, grilling, or just sitting on the porch.
  • Hosting parties: the Moscow Mule is appropriate for both casual and formal parties. For such purposes, a large batch can be pre-made (minus the ginger beer) ahead of time.
  • Outdoor formal events: bright copper mugs, warm sunshine, big floppy sun hats, you get the idea.

What to Serve with Moscow Mules

  • Spicy food, especially spicy Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
  • Seafood, particularly light to medium-bodied dishes, fish tacos, and seafood pasta.
  • Charcuterie and cheese boards, as a bright contrast to rich, fatty, salty meats and cheeses.

As always, remember to enjoy Moscow Mules responsibly!

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