The Moscow Mule was first introduced to the world in Manhattan in 1941. As one story goes, a bartender had mistakenly ordered too much ginger beer, and invented this drink to unload excess stock. It had the added benefit of featuring vodka, a spirit that wasn’t yet super mainstream. There is some debate around exactly who came up with this new classic, but most can agree that it’s hard to find a more refreshing and easy-to-make cocktail on a warm day. Keep reading below for a deep dive into the contested history of the Moscow Mule.
Need the right vodka? See our picks for the best vodkas for a Moscow Mule!
See our Complete Guide to Mule Drinks including recipes and variations here!
Table Of Contents
Moscow Mule Ingredients
- 2 ounces vodka
- 3 ounces ginger beer
- Juice of half a lime, and lime wedge for garnish
Moscow Mule Directions
- Add vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice to a copper mug (or highball glass).
- Fill mug with crushed ice.
- Stir well.
- Garnish with lime wedge and enjoy.
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Moscow Mule Recipe Video
Moscow Mule FAQ
Why are Moscow Mules served in copper mugs?
The Moscow Mule was originally served in a copper mug because a Russian immigrant, who was present at the Cock n’ Bull bar where the first iteration of the cocktail was made, could not sell her copper mug collection and gave one to the bartenders to house the concoction.
Today, Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs because the copper material conducts temperature, meaning it takes on the beverage’s temperature when it is poured into the mug. As such, the mule stays colder for longer, enhancing the flavor of the vodka and ginger beer.
Why do they call it a Moscow Mule?
The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by John Martin and Jack Morgan who brought Smirnoff Vodka and home-brewed ginger beer, respectively, to the Cock n’ Bull bar to make a new cocktail. During the Cold War, the drink was officially named the Smirnoff Mule, after the vodka brand used and the (mule) kick of flavor ginger beer added.
Eventually, the name switched to Moscow Mule due to Americans’ tendencies to associate vodka, especially one with a Russian name, with the country’s capital city.
What kind of ginger beer is best for Moscow Mules?
We believe the best kind of ginger beer for Moscow Mules is Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Beer. Other great options include Q Drinks Spectacular Ginger Beer, Barritt’s Ginger Beer, Top Note Ginger Beer, and DG Genuine Jamaican Ginger Beer.
The History of the Moscow Mule and Its Iconic Copper Mug
Which came first, the mule or the mug? Turns out, that iconic copper mug might have been the impetus behind one of America’s favorite cocktails.
The Moscow Mule was famously born of an overabundance of supplies and a need to push product. John G. Martin, head of Heublein & Brothers, had recently purchased Smirnoff distillery and found himself with a surplus of vodka. As Eric Felten reported for The Wall Street Journal back in 2007, Martin’s friend, Jack Morgan, owned Cock ‘n’ Bull bar in Los Angeles. Morgan was also swimming in a product he was pushing: his very own brand of ginger beer. One night, Morgan and Martin were hanging out with one of Morgan's bartenders, Wes Price, who was also trying to get rid of product. “I just wanted to clean out the basement," Price would say of creating the Moscow Mule. "I was trying to get rid of a lot of dead stock." Dead stock meant Smirnoff vodka and ginger beer, of course. Price claims his concoction was first served to actor Broderick Crawford. After that, the drink “caught on like wildfire.”
And what about the copper mug? According to historian of drinks Ted Haigh, Morgan's girlfriend, Osalene Schmitt, had inherited a business that made copper goods -- hence, the mug.
There are plenty of alternate tales regarding the drink’s humble beginnings, though. A competing narrative was brought to light by the Moscow Copper Co. Their version tells the tale of Sophie Berezinski, an immigrant to the U.S. from Russia in 1941, who arrived on our shores with approximately 2,000 copper mugs in her possession. Her father owned and operated the famed copper company and had a surplus of the mugs that he simply couldn’t sell back home in Russia. Sophie took the products to America in hopes that they’d move quickly, though the mugs didn’t seem to budge. After some time, Sophie's husband Max threatened to get rid of the mugs if she didn’t make a quick sell. This version has it that Martin and Morgan were at a bar together discussing their business woes and failures to sell their vodka and ginger beer when in walked Sophie, copper mugs and all. After joining their conversation, the three spent hours crafting a drink that could satisfy all of their product-pushing needs.
Believe it or not, another version of the story exists, too. In a 2007 article, author George Sinclair quotes a 1948 edition of the New York Herald Tribune that found that the drink was actually born on the East Coast, in Manhattan, but "stalled" on the West Coast. This version claims that the third person involved in the drink's birth was Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, Heublein’s vodka division. According to this third version, the three were sipping, snacking, and working toward a brilliant business decision that would benefit the entire trio. The bartender poured them a mingling of vodka and ginger beer with a touch of lemon juice, and a few days later, the Moscow Mule was officially named.
Regardless of the story, it’s generally accepted that Martin was the one responsible for the drink’s takeoff, sparking sales of both his vodka and the copper mug by going to bars and taking Polaroids of bartenders posing with both products. Currently, the Moscow Mule remains one of the most popular drinks in the country, still served up in the same classic, copper mug in which it was created.
Moscow Mule Variations To Try:
- Mexican Mule - This Mexican Mule recipe trades the vodka usually found in the Moscow Mule for tequila, and the result is spicy, sour, and delicious.
- Kentucky Mule - The Kentucky Mule subs vodka for bourbon — hence its name, which pays tribute to the land of origin of America’s native spirit: bourbon.
- The Gin Gin Mule - A cousin of the Moscow Mule, the Gin Gin Mule utilizes the complexity of fine gin to turn this twist into an instant classic.
- The Cranberry Moscow Mule - The classic vodka, ginger beer, and lime Moscow Mule gets a sweet/tart addition of homemade cranberry simple syrup for a seasonal touch.
- The Marshmallow Mule - This recipe from Emily Vikre's "Camp Cocktails" mixes vodka and soda with toasted marshmallow and ginger syrup, "perfect for when you’re at the cabin."
- The Pineapple Moscow Mule - This twist on the classic Moscow Mule is the perfect drink for transitioning from summer to fall with flavors reminiscent of both seasons.
- The Raspberry Rum Mule - A fruity, boozy riff on the classic Moscow Mule cocktail featuring rum and raspberries.