The Moscow Mule is a refreshing and easy vodka highball that uses ginger beer. Along with the likes of the White Russian, it was designed to sell vodka to U.S. drinkers in the 1930's and 1940's. Before this time, vodka was relatively unknown to Americans, though it didn't take long for them to fall in love with the clear spirit.
This is one of the easiest drinks to make and it may quickly become your new favorite vodka highball. It has a snappy spice that is unique, refreshing and invigorating, spectacular in its simplicity.
The Moscow Mule requires just three easy-to-find ingredients, two of which can be played with to customize to your own taste. There is an extensive breakdown of the Moscow Mule below, but first, let's check out just how simple the recipe is.
- Pour the vodka and lime juice into a highball glass with ice cubes.
- Top off with the ginger beer.
- Garnish with the lime wedge.
If you would like to go a traditional route, serve your Moscow Mule in a copper mug.
The History of the Moscow Mule
There are a couple of claims to the creation of the Moscow Mule. One dates to 1939 at the Cock N' Bull pub in Hollywood. The story goes that the bar's owner, Jack Morgan, partnered up Smirnoff owner John Martin to promote that vodka along with the bar's house ginger beer.
It was a win-win situation for the team because both brands are alive and well today.
Another story jumps ahead to 1941 at the same bar when the head bartender, Wes Price, needed to unload liquor stock that wasn't selling. This successful promotion was enhanced by a marketing campaign in which a Moscow Mule made with Smirnoff was served in copper mugs. The mugs became a trademark vessel for the drink, the campaign was a success for the Russian vodka and the drink has been popular ever since.
The drink came back into the spotlight in the 21st century and often it seemed to be the talk of every bar in the world. This resurgence introduced an entirely new generation of drinkers to the great taste of the Moscow Mule, but it has also led to a few misconceptions.
The Moscow Mule and Ginger Beer: Getting the Popular Vodka Cocktail Right
The Ginger Beer. The Moscow Mule is simple: vodka, lime, ginger beer. That's right, ginger beer -- not ginger ale or any of the lemon-lime sodas available. This cocktail requires ginger beer.
It is a completely different drink without that single element because all of those other sodas are tame and boring compared to the snap of a great ginger beer. The ginger beer is the real appeal to the Moscow Mule; the vodka and lime are mere complements to the ginger beer and until you have one made properly, you have not experienced it completely.
I have even been in an establishment (or two) that got everything right, including the copper mugs, except that there was not a drop of ginger beer in the house.
I honestly do not mind the ginger ale option. It still makes for a great drink. That drink is not, however, a Moscow Mule. If you are going to a great extent to promote a drink, you should at least have the option available to make it correctly.
There are many great ginger beers to choose from and they vary in the intensity of their ginger spice flavor. Some have a softer spice that is nearly at the level of ginger ale and others are very strong, poignant and unforgettable.
Jamaican ginger beer is known for having the stronger spice and there are many options available. I find the best Jamaican ginger beers at my local international market and recommend exploring those options. The best part is that their stock is constantly changing so it is a different experience with every drink.
Two ginger beers that were developed specifically for cocktails like the Moscow Mule are Q Ginger Beer and Fever-Tree Ginger Beer. Both make an excellent Moscow Mule and tend to be a balance between the mild and spicy.
The Vodka. Now that we have that element cleared up, let's talk vodka. If you want to be a traditionalist you should be using Smirnoff because it was their mid-20th-century marketing campaign that brought this drink to the attention of Americans.
However, we are blessed today with a booming vodka market, so there are many other options and frankly, most of them are better. Choose your favorite clear vodka -- it doesn't have to be the best, something mid-range will do just fine. Do keep in mind that this is a simple drink and a bad vodka will only degrade its overall taste.
If you want to shake things up a little bit, there are also some attractive options among the flavored vodkas as well. Passion fruit, citrus, and coconut are a few of the favorites that have been used and you may want to give those a try.
The Drinkware. The other topic of the Moscow Mule is in the drinkware. The copper cups have likely had something to do with the drink's popularity. Everyone wants to know what you're drinking in that shiny metal mug and there is a certain appeal to changing it up from the ordinary glass routine.
The cup is not essential, so you don't have to go out and buy a set unless you really enjoy it.
How Strong Is the Moscow Mule?
The strength of the Moscow Mule is really going to depend on how it is made, and particularly how much ginger beer goes into the drink. The average Moscow Mule is fairly tame and if an 80-proof vodka is used with even as little as a 4-ounce pour of ginger beer, then the drink is a mild 11% ABV (22 proof). It is equal to the average glass of wine.