The drink that put vodka on the US map
Vodka may now be the most popular spirit in the United States. But back when this drink was invented (in the 1940s), few Americans had ever encountered it.
Then the Moscow Mule took the country by storm. And Americans started a love affair with vodka that still goes strong today.
One taste of this tall, slow sipper and you’ll see why. Because what could be better than vodka and lime juice topped off with spicy ginger beer?
Drink up, comrades!
Recipe: The Moscow Mule Cocktail
This drink is traditionally served in a copper mug. The mugs look nice, and you can find them in many housewares stores (or via mail order). But any tall glass will work. You can even use a double rocks glass. Just go with a glass that holds a volume of 10 ounces or so.
BTW, if you’re in a hurry, you can pour this drink by eye (without measuring). Just put ice in your glass of choice, add as much vodka and lime juice as you fancy, then pour in enough ginger beer to top it up.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.
- 1½ to 2 ounces vodka
- ½ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (about ½ medium lime)
- ~4 ounces ginger beer (to taste; you might want a bit less or more)
- lime wheel or wedge for garnish (optional; may also use a sprig of mint)
- Fill a copper mule mug (or a tall glass) with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lime juice, then top up with ginger beer. Give the drink a quick stir to combine the ingredients.
- Add the garnish (if using) and a pair of straws, if you like (we do). Serve and enjoy.
- In cocktail parlance, a “mule” is a drink that combines a spirit with citrus juice and ginger beer or ale. An earlier (largely forgotten) name for this category of drink is a “buck.”
- Because of The Moscow Mule’s popularity, vodka has become the best-known spirit for this type of cocktail. But you can make a mule with any base liquor – bourbon, brandy, rum, whatever.
- The Dark and Stormy Cocktail, which uses dark rum as its base spirit, is a type of mule (at least if you include lime juice – which you should, in our opinion).
- Ginger beer is a spicier, more vivacious cousin of ginger ale. It’s usually nonalcoholic, though you can find versions with booze. Most liquor stores carry several different brands of ginger beer, and they all have different taste profiles. Experiment until you find one you like.
- The Moscow Mule originally was made with the Smirnoff brand of vodka. But any good vodka will work in this drink.
- So, how did the Moscow Mule come to be? One legend goes like this: In the late 1930s, the Heublein drinks company purchased the rights to Smirnoff. John G. Martin, an executive at Heublein, was tasked with making Smirnoff popular – a tough sell because most Americans at the time associated vodka with eastern European immigrants. Drinkers in the US were into whiskey. And gin.
- Then one day in 1941, Martin visited the Cock ‘n’ Bull Pub in Los Angeles, where he dined with the owner, a friend of his named Jack Morgan. Martin started complaining about how hard it was to sell vodka. Morgan, in turn, began lamenting an epic lapse of judgment on his own part – he had provisioned his bar with way too much ginger beer, and couldn’t move the stuff.
- So the two men put their heads together – over a drink, of course – and brainstormed the idea of combining Smirnoff vodka with ginger beer. And lime. They called it the Moscow Mule because vodka was thought to be quintessentially Russian.
- How did the copper mug enter the scene? Well, supposedly Morgan’s girlfriend had a copper factory. And she was long on copper mugs that she couldn’t unload. So the three cocktail conspirators decided to use copper mugs as the drink’s signature vessel. Win, win, win.
- The mug turned out to be a brilliant stroke of marketing. When people saw someone drinking from a copper mug in a bar or restaurant, they wanted to know what was being consumed. Then they had to order one too – and maybe liked it so much they ordered another. And stole the mug to take home.
- Swell story. Is it true? Probably not. Eric Felten, in a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, says the drink was actually invented by Wes Price, Morgan’s head bartender. Though Price apparently was motivated to move some excess ginger beer and vodka out of the storeroom (the Cock ‘n’ Bull was overstocked with both).
- According to Price, he served the first Moscow Mule he mixed to the actor Broderick Crawford, who liked it. Crawford then told his friends among the Hollywood glitterati. They liked it too, and the Moscow Mule became a Tinseltown favorite. Soon, the whole country liked it. A legend was born.
- Oh, and that vodka stuff that nobody ever drank? Well, it went on to star in countless new drinks.
“Whoa, this drink has a nice kick,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Fitting, given the name.”
“Versatile, too,” I said. “It could keep us warm during those long Russian winters, but it’s also perfect for summer sipping.”
“So you’re saying it works like a mule?” said Mrs K R.
“Yup,” I said. “I could pull a plow after a couple of these.”
“Or maybe just get plowed,” said Mrs K R.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Dark and Stormy Cocktail
Pimm's Cup Cocktail
Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
Cuba Libre Cocktail
Gin and Tonic Cocktail
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Blue Hawaii Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
I bet it's very good! Cheers!
Hi Angie, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This was the drink of choice when my German visits were here. Cheers !
Hi Gerlinde, this went out of style for a bit, but it's become really popular again. And it should be -- wonderful flavor. Thanks for the comment.
I always learn from you--I had no idea vodka hasn't always been so popular here. But now I'm really thirsty :). Moscow Mules are appropriate for lunch, right?
At the moment I am busy cleaning the concrete floors in Manservant's unflooded office to get it ready for staining. 6pm is quitting time and this will be in my head until then. Have all the ingredients and I am hotter than a mule on this 97 degree day. This is looking mighty fine!
My culinary reading group read a wonderful history of the family that invented the eponymous Smirnoff Vodka: "The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire" by Linda Himelstein. The reason why an American corporation got the rights to the name and product is interesting too.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Fantastic story, especially how the copper mugs came into play! We're in the middle of a sunny week so a frosty Moscow Mule sounds very inviting.
Wow! John....that looks so cool and refreshing. I've been working pulling weeds from the flower beds and came in for a break. This is just what I need right now, but then I would probably crash and not finish the weeds....lol
PS...I love this photo :)
Love this, a great little drink for 5:00 here! And lucky me---the ingredients are waiting for me! Like the copper mug story also! But, I'm glad I don't have to have one to make this smooth cocktail. Wonder how it would be with Dry Gin...
Thanks, my comrade for the recipe!
Hi Kelsie, most definitely appropriate for lunch! All that ginger beer makes this a light drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, you'll definitely want one or more of these to cool off! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, sounds like an interesting book! Booze history can be fascinating. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, the mug really does make this drink, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, maybe one of these after the weeds? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, I'll bet gin would be good in this! Just call it a gin buck. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love that copper mug, what you serve something in really does make a difference. I am always more interested in something if it is served in a unique or aesthetic way
Hi Dahn, the mug is a lot of fun, isn't it? However its use came about, it was genius. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I do like this drink, especially in a frosty copper mug. I am intrigued by the notion of using brandy to make it. Will let you know how it works out!
I've been using vodka to make a Harvey Wallbanger, which has orange juice. But adding ginger beer and lime juice sounds like a nice alternative!
This drink looks like something my husband would love!
Hi Lydia, do let me know how the brandy works! Sounds pretty good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, love the Galliano in the Harvey Wallbanger! That drink and this have different flavor profiles, of course, but both are quite refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Peachy, you need to make sure he has one. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is my favorite drink of all time and I just bought the Copper mugs to make them in! Love it!
Hi Ashley, the copper mugs are SO much fun! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I am SO INTO Moscow Mules right now!! With the 3 digit temperatures we're having, they are the perfect heat buster and I've been ordering every time we go out to eat. I'm going to have to make that Dark and Stormy as I love dark Jamaican rum. YUM! Thanks for sharing the recipe John!
Hi MJ, such a refreshing drink, isn't it? If you like this, because you like dark Jamaican rum you'll really like the Dark and Stormy, too. Both really nice drinks. Thanks for the comment.
Almost the Russian version of a caipirinha, Brazil's national drink. Cheers to summer!
Hi Denise, this is somewhat similar -- nicely lime (almost lemon-lime) flavor. Thanks for the comment.
This wasn't only a great post with a delicious beverage, but a very educational one, John! ;)
You can't go wrong with a Moscow mule, especially not in the sunshine!
I always wondered how the copper mug for this came about. Thanks for the info! This is a great cocktail for hot weather. Is it 5 o'clock yet?
Hi Agness, we love cocktail history, so whenever we know something interesting about a drink, we like to share it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, this is a wonderful drink to sip on a hot sunny day! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, it's 5 o'clock somewhere! :-) Thanks for the comment.
aaaaaand you've just hit upon my favorite drink of the summer: I live on Moscow Mules when the weather kicks into high temperatures, simply because it's super-refreshing and yes, easy to do by eye (which is exactly how I make it.) I had no idea that "mule" actually described a larger genre of drinks - I learn something new from you each time you post. :) thanks!
I have seen lots of different takes on the Moscow Mule at restaurants in my area but I haven't tried any yet. You've inspired me!
This is a must try for me. What kind of ginger beer do you recommend? Whether or not it's in the copper mug, it looks very refreshing!
Hi Shannon, this is such a nice summer drink, isn't it? You might want to try a Dark and Stormy sometime -- a bit heavier than the Moscow Mule, but more flavor too. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, you definitely need to give this a try! Fun drink. And tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, Fever Tree is my current favorite when it comes to ginger beer, but not the easiest to find. Gosling's is available even in supermarkets where I live, and is good and quite refreshing. A bit sweet, but it works in this drink. Thanks for the comment.
Aaaaaahhhhh....you're totally speaking my language. The Moscow Mule is perfect for summer. We make a Texas Mule with grapefruit vodka and the same other ingredients. CHEERS!
Hi Pamela, haven't had a Teas Mule -- really like the idea of it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm off the booze at the minute, but a virgin mule would taste the business too, I am sure. I need me some of those copper mugs. They are gorgeous. As are your photographs.
Hi Anna, a virgin mule would taste quite good. Maybe increase the lime a bit (perhaps double it?). Thanks for the comment.
I actually HAVE THOSE MUGS!!!
Hi John, this drink probably has one of my favorite stories to date, always learn something interesting when I read your post. I've been seeing these mugs in all the shops now I know what they are all about, thanks!
Hi, Gigi, you'll enjoy putting them to good use. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, the story behind this drink is fun, isn't it? Although like with all drink stories, kinda sketchy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I like the copper mug looks refreshing. I bet the drink is refreshing as well.
Hi Amira, the mug looks nice, doesn't it? And yes, the drink is refreshing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This Moscow mule would certainly hit the spot on a hot summer's eve--which will probably occur every day for the rest of the summer!! So refreshing!
Looks like perfect drink for the season.
Hi Liz, it's definitely the season for frosty, cooling drinks. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, it really is. Definitely a nice cooler. :-) Thanks for the comment.
A perfect drink. It looks superb. Yum :)
Such a great, drink I had my first pretty recently because MOntreal is going through a Moscow Mule obsession lol. I love the copper mugs too. And I am a big fan of ginger beer!
I just recently had my first Moscow Mule but yours looks better!
Hi Ritu, it is superb! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Evelyne, ginger beer is wonderful, isn't it? Love its tangy flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Chris, good drink, isn't it? If you haven't had a Dark and Stormy, that's worth trying, too. Thanks for the comment.
I love drinks served in signature glasses and this one is so cute in the copper mug! It's a good story too, and it really doesn't matter if it's true or not. I like vodka, the clear alcohols have less carbs and generally don't give you a hangover (unless, of course, consumed in copious amounts!) LOL!
Hi Eva, it's all about quantity, isn't it? :-) Those mugs really do look nice. And it's a good story. Lot of cocktail lore is kind of dubious, but as long as it's a good story, it's OK in my book! Thanks for the comment.
This is one of my favourite summer drinks but for some crazy reason ginger beer is not very popular in Canada so I always have to go in search of it when I make them.
I need a copper mug too! Great photo and beautiful drink :) Cheers!
I need to try this drink. My neighbors love a Moscow Mule and are always talking about it. Now that I have your recipe I'll give it a whirl.
Hi Robyn, too bad about it being so difficult to find ginger beer! You need to speak to the authorities. :D Thanks for the comment.
Hi Vicki, it's a nice drink! And I know you don't drink that much -- you can put maybe an ounce of vodka in this and (I think) it'd still be a good drink. Thanks for the comment.
Happy Birthday John! Can we toast to your B-Day? Love moscow mules cool and refreshing and light and bright. I don't know why but drinking them in the copper mugs always makes them feel colder and even better.
Hi Bobbi, those mugs are fun! Thanks for the B-Day wishes, and the comment. :-)
The mug is working the same magic on this cocktail in restaurants today. GREG
Hi Greg, that mug is such great marketing, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Certainly thirsty for a drink or two now, phew!. Thanks for sharing the recipe, warm greetings to you!
Hi Blogaratti, the downside with posts like this is they do make you thirsty. The upside is, well, you're thirsty! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I like literally everything about this drink, even that you can pour it on eye <3
Hi Marta, this is a good one! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Thanks forthe history lesson! I've had many Moscow Mules, and have often wondered about their backstory.
Hi Jeff, fun story, isn't it? Most of it probably isn't "true" but the drink tastes "true" which is all that matter. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Can you believe I've never had one? But I am a big dark and stormy fan, so I'm pretty sure I'd love it, and thanks for the history lesson, as always!
This is one of my sister-in-law's favorite cocktails! I will be sure to forward her your post, she will enjoy it! You two are so cute!! :)
Hi Sue, you definitely need to give one of these a try! The flavor isn't as deep as a dark and stormy -- much more lemon/limey. But good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, next time you see your sister-in-law, you should both have one of these. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I want to go with the entrepreneurial story: too much vodka, too much ginger beer, and a surplus of copper mugs. I love it!
I love anything ginger. And who can resist the bling of the copper mug? Now wonder Moscow Mules are having a moment.
This drink sounds refreshing. Love the copper mug.
Hi Debra, that's a fun scenario, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, copper mug bling is fun! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, that mug is really hard to resist. :-) Thanks for the comment.
From such types of drinks vodka is the only one I drink and I will certainly try this one out! Looks perfect!
Hi Katerina, you'll like this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've actually never had one of these drink, but now that I see that they contain ginger beer I will need to change that because it's one of my favorites!
Hi Amy, ginger beer is so tasty, isn't it? We love the stuff! Thanks for the comment.
I love Moscow mule cocktail, but I have never made it at home. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. Loving your photos.
LOVE Moscow mules. Looks and sounds perfect!
Hi Anu, you need to give this a try sometime -- fun drink to make. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, so refreshing during the hot summer months! Thanks for the comment.
Sounds like a nice combination. I might try substituting some other liquor for the vodka—I think rum would go nicely with the ginger beer? Or maybe try a "virgin" version.
Hi Frank, if you like dark rum, that's my suggestion. Otherwise bourbon or brandy should be pretty nice in this. And the virgin version would be good too -- really refreshing! Thanks for the comment.
I used to hate these drinks but last year I had one (at a hip Vietnamese restaurant) that totally changed it for me and now I love them! I'll have to try yours.
Hi Alyssa, this really is a refreshing drink in the summer -- worth drinking for that reason alone. Thanks for the comment.
Glad to finally learn why these drinks are traditionally served in copper mugs! I've actually never had one of these drinks. But it sounds and looks so refreshing! Beautiful photos, John! :)
Hi Anne, it's a nice summer drink -- very refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
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