The Moscow Mule – also known as the vodka buck – is sure to add some much needed spice to your (night) life. This fiery cocktail is as delicious as it is easy to make, so no wonder it’s become a staple in bars all over the world. Here we’ll tell you how it came to be – and, more importantly, how you can make the perfect one for yourself.
Moscow Mule Cocktail Recipe: The History
Like all great inventions, the Moscow Mule was born from necessity. Namely, the necessity to sell overstock.
After prohibition, Heublein & Brothers had become one of North America’s largest suppliers of alcoholic beverages. In 1938, they purchased the Smirnoff distillery, which had been floundering for a couple of decades since it was forced to leave Russia during the October Revolution.
It was a shrewd move by Heublein & Brothers. But, as the old story goes, it left their head, John G. Martin, with a problem – albeit a good problem to have. He suddenly had a surplus of vodka he needed to sell. Cue Jack Morgan and Wes Price.
Jack Morgan was a friend of Martin’s and owned the Cock 'n' Bull bar in Los Angeles, California. Morgan had a similar problem to Martin’s, but his product was the bar’s house brand of ginger beer. It was Wes Price, the Cock 'n' Bull bartender, who solved both men’s problems. He combined the two, added a dash of lime, and, by chance, served the first ever Moscow Mule to Hollywood star Broderick Crawford. That was enough to make the Moscow Mule the hottest cocktail in Tinseltown.
But there’s a twist that’s often left out of the commonly told origin story. A twist that may help to explain one of the cocktails’ most enduring mysteries. Why is the Moscow Mule usually served in a copper mug?
It follows a familiar theme – overstock. Sophie Berezinski’s father ran a copper company in Russia and had produced over 2,000 copper mugs that he couldn’t sell. When his daughter migrated to the US in 1941, she took them with her, banking on them making her fortune.
It didn’t quite work out that way. At least not at first. Eventually, Sophie’s husband got sick of them taking up space and threatened to get rid of all 2,000 of them. Forced to act, Sophie immediately began taking her mugs from bar to bar.
This was in Los Angeles and – you guessed it – she eventually waltzed right into the Cock n Bull bar. As if by fate, she arrived just as John G. Martin and Jack Morgan were concocting their plan to sell more vodka and ginger beer.
Moscow Mule: Ingredients
The traditional Moscow Mule uses just three ingredients: vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime. It is usually garnished with a wedge or disc of fresh lime and a sprig of fresh mint. The copper mug is highly recommended but completely optional.
The measurements are:
- 60 ml (2 oz) vodka
- 120 ml (4 oz) ginger beer
- 15 ml (½ oz) fresh lime juice
- 1 sprig of fresh mint (optional)
- 1 wedge of lime for garnish
Moscow Mule Cocktail: Steps to make it
If using, place the fresh mint in a copper mug or glass and fill it up with ice.
Pour in the vodka, lime juice and ginger beer in that order. Gently swirl it just once with a spoon or swizzle stick to mix.
Garnish the Moscow Mule with the lime wedge and enjoy.
Moscow Mule Cocktail: Recipe variations
Not everybody likes vodka. If you’re more of a gin person, it’s easy to adapt the above Moscow Mule recipe to suit you. Just substitute the vodka for the same amount of gin.
Cranberry Moscow Mule
If you find the above recipe a bit too strong, either on the alcohol, ginger beer, or both, then try this fruity twist.
Simply make the above recipe but with an added 120 ml (4 oz) of cranberry juice. (To make this work, you might need a taller glass, or otherwise cut down on the amount of ice.) Now forget about the lime wedge and top the cocktail with cranberries to garnish. Fresh or frozen, it doesn’t really matter.
Are you a budding bartender or simply eager to expand your mixology skills? If you liked the citrus kick of the Moscow Mule but are seeking out a tipple more suited to the festive season, click here to learn how to make a classic Snowball. Or else try something completely different by browsing some of our favourite drinks recipes here.