How to Make a Moscow Mule
- 2 oz. vodka
- 1/2 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 6 oz. ginger beer
- Squeeze lime juice into a copper mug (or a Collins glass) and drop in the spent shell.
- Add ice cubes, then pour in the vodka and fill with cold ginger beer.
- Serve with a stirring rod.
The Moscow Mule practically crackles from its chill. In the dead of winter, it’ll cut into the haze of your groggy, tired mind like the edge of a Siberian glacier. In the last humid dregs of summer, the frosty, copper mug will bite at your fingertips. It is a worthy use of vodka. And for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it—the copper mug, the stirring rod—it’s about as simple as a cocktail can be: spirit, mixer, and citrus. Vodka for the bitter bite, ginger beer for a sweet snap, and lime to round out the ensemble. Note that ginger ale is not equal to ginger beer, but what the hell, use in case of emergency. Then, drink your Moscow Mule while debating the extent of geopolitical meddling by our Russian comrades, or while ruminating on anything but politics. Na zdarovje.
A Little Background
Wouldn’t you know it, the Moscow Mule is not of Russian descent. It’s an American cocktail, cooked up in Los Angeles a few years before the Cold War froze up. In fact, it happened to be invented the same year that the Soviet Union and the U.S. became allies, 1941, by two men—one, the bar manager of the Cock ‘n’ Bull bar in L.A.; the other a Smirnoff exec who wanted to sell vodka to Americans. Or perhaps it was the Cock ‘n’ Bull’s bartender, who claimed he made up the recipe to help offload cases of ginger beer that were stacking up his basement. The Moscow Mule’s iconic copper mug came from the Cock ‘n’ Bull’s idea factory as well.
It was a hell of a marketing campaign. The Moscow Mule got very popular among the Hollywood elite, and according to drinks historian David Wondrich, helped America get better acquainted with vodka. Unlike the Russian-American affair, America’s relationship with vodka has held strong. It should also be noted that in addition to vodka, ginger beer contributes its own global backstory to the Moscow Mule. The British are credited with first brewing it hundreds of years ago, but the ginger they used was in large part harvested from the Caribbean islands they colonized, where it was cultivated by enslaved people. That about wraps up this lesson on world history. Enjoy your drink.
If You Like This, Try These
Speaking of Caribbean history, the Dark and Stormy is another ginger beer cocktail, but with Caribbean rum instead of vodka. We’ll also suggest a Kentucky Mule; follow the recipe above, but replace the vodka with bourbon and try a sprig of mint as the garnish. Finally, you can make a highball with ginger ale (not beer) and the whiskey of your choice.