Simplicity is the key. Just three ingredients make up a Moscow Mule. Vodka, ginger beer, and a wedge of lime. That’s all you need to make the refreshing and wildy popular cocktail that, 75 years after its invention, has become a national favorite.
It may seem like the Moscow Mule trend appeared out of nowhere thanks to some divine intervention, like the hand that placed the cocktail in front of you belonged to the god of cocktails and good times and not the bartender who suggested the drink you try the drink.
But not so. The Moscow Mule was invented in the early 1940s by two businessmen who were hard pressed to sell their products and were looking for a miracle of their own.
As the story goes, the Moscow Mule was born out of a clever marketing plan hatched by John G. Martin, a spirits distributor who was looking for a way to sell more of his vodka, and John “Jack” Morgan, a restaurateur and owner of Cock ‘n’ Bull ginger beer who needed a way to sell his ginger beer. They packaged the two products together, added a squeeze of lemon juice, and the Moscow Mule was born. To promote the drink, they photographed people drinking the cocktail out of copper mugs to make the drink stand out more.
Despite the Soviet-inspired name of the cocktail, it’s origin story is uniquely American. Two enterprising minds collaborated to create a brand new cocktail to help sell their own products. The cocktail benefitted early in its history because when vodka leapfrogged all other liquors and became the most popular spirit in America.
Call It a Comeback
The Moscow Mule has had an explosive resurgence and has the widest appeal of any the cocktails that have found new life during the recent cocktail revival. It’s hard to pin down exactly what launched Moscow Mules into the mainstream again, but a quick google trends search shows that the number of people searching for the term “Moscow Mule” started to rise dramatically in 2011 with a peak at the end of 2015.
Why is the Moscow Mule popular again?
It’s downright tasty for one. It has appeal in its simplicity and the fact that its base spirit is the ever-populist vodka. For those new to the cocktail scene, or who don’t have the wherewithal or machismo to stomach whiskey or gin cocktails, it’s a great meeting point between craft cocktail and an easy sipper.
Where’s my copper mug?
A traditional Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug. But we know that the copper mug, much like the drink itself, was a marketing ploy. There’s nothing wrong with that, you shouldn’t feel like you’re getting a raw deal if your bartender doesn’t serve your drink in a copper mug, but you can’t help but judge a place that doesn’t.
Oh, and don’t scold your bartender for going copperless with your mule, either. If you do ask them, “where’s my copper mug?,” they’ll likely to tell you they don’t serve them that way because people steal the mugs after they’ve finished their drink, or during. There are even bars out there that will require a ID or credit card to serve you in a copper mug, this probably stems from the fact that real copper mugs can be pricey while their knock off counterparts aren’t exactly as cheap as that pint glass you are sipping your beer out of either.
Moscow Mules Today
You can order a Moscow Mule almost anywhere today. Or it’s simple enough where you can make one at home, or even send a moscow mule gift basket to a friend.
There are also countless riffs on the mule. Swap in bourbon for vodka, and you’ve got a Kentucky Mule. Using dark rum? Well, that’s a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.
Here’s a tip to make a Moscow Mule even tastier: add 1-2 dashes of aromatic bitters to the drink and taste those flavors pop, this works especially well with its Kentucky counterpart, it really brings out the whiskey flavor.