The dog days of summer call for refreshing beverages — mixed drinks that ideally pack a punch on flavor yet don’t require too much brain power or preparation. On this stage, few offerings match the mix of ginger beer, lime, and vodka, better known as the Moscow Mule.
Of course, it’s practically a legal requirement to mention that this drink almost single-handedly propelled vodka to becoming the most popular spirit in America.
Differing accounts of the tale prevail, but the generally accepted version goes that a 1940’s L.A. bartender wanted to shift surplus ginger beer languishing in his restaurant’s basement. Adding then-widely-unknown Smirnoff vodka to the mixer provided the ideal flavorless boozy kick. Within a year, the Moscow Mule had become the toast of Hollywood, and vodka had begun its journey to dominating spirits sales in the U.S. for decades.
Such a simple formula requires all components to play their part. Lime juice should be procured from fresh fruit a la minute, no ifs or buts. The ginger beer must be balanced and flavorful, providing just the right amount of heat, without going too far. And the vodka… well, it can actually bring more to this cocktail than just alcohol by volume.
Opt for the right bottle, and the vodka can impact the drink’s texture, flavor, fiery heat, and finish. Serving ample proof, here are the eight best vodkas for Moscow Mules, tasted and ranked.
8. Loft & Bear Artisanal Vodka
From L.A. (fittingly), this zesty artisanal vodka serves a balanced, bold, and full-bodied Mule. There’s a hint of booze on the finish but in no way does it take away from the overall character of the cocktail. Average price: $35.
7. Reyka Vodka
This polished and clean Icelandic vodka weaves seamlessly into the blend. Though incredibly subtle, its glacial-like quality pokes out on the finish, holding its own alongside prickly ginger and refreshing lime. Average price: $20.
6. Wild Roots Vodka
Moscow Mules made with this corn-based vodka from the Pacific Northwest land on the sweeter end of the spectrum. The drink remains balanced, however, and the sweetness adds to the body of the cocktail and delivers a well-rounded mouthfeel. Average price: $21.
5. Hanson of Sonoma Meyer Lemon Organic Vodka
With citrus forming a major part of this cocktail, why not turn to a high-quality lemon flavored vodka? The lime juice is still required in this instance but the vodka’s candied lemon notes give an extra dimension to the Mule and pair wonderfully with the ginger beer. Average price: $28.
4. Tommyrotter Small Batch Vodka
Though technically unflavored, this bottle finishes with vibrant bursts of lemon, which help provide a zesty, citrus-driven mule. This profile also ensures the cocktail feels light and energetic on the palate, guaranteeing refreshment on balmy summer days. Average price: $29.
3. CÎROC Snap Frost Vodka
Distilled from grapes, this iconic French vodka has a bold, fruity profile. Those credentials make it an ideal fit for the Moscow Mule, to which it adds body and depth of flavor that maintain its concentration even as the ice in the cocktail melts. Average price: $31.
2. Deep Eddy Lime Vodka
Yes, yes, Moscow Mules should be made with fresh lime. But such is the authenticity of this bottle’s flavor, there’s no real need for it. That’s a big check in the convenience column, and the vodka’s vibrant lime notes shine well onto the finish. Average price: $14.
1. Broken Shed New Zealand Vodka
Made using whey protein, this vodka integrates effortlessly into the Moscow Mule, allowing the other ingredients to shine. Instead, it’s the drink’s texture that it influences. The creaminess of Broken Shed calms the fiery ginger beer, delivering a velvety smooth iteration of the cocktail. Average price: $25.