One of the most popular cocktails across America, the Moscow Mule is having a moment more than 80 years after it was invented. Discover the drink’s storied history and learn how to craft the classic vodka cocktail at home in just three minutes.
The Moscow Mule may be the most distinctive cocktail in the world.
Typically served in a textured copper mug, the vodka cocktail makes a statement as soon as it hits the bar. There’s no question about what’s inside the mug since it’s obviously a Moscow Mule cocktail. The mug and the drink go hand in hand.
And, because the Moscow Mule recipe is so succinct and balanced, there’s also no question that the cocktail will likely taste good. Very good.
What Is a Moscow Mule?
If you’re a cocktail fan, then you’ve probably imbibed a Moscow Mule or two during drinking outings in your home town. But do you know the mechanics of the beloved drink?
In simple terms, a Moscow Mule is a vodka buck that combines the simple, clear liquor with spicy ginger beer. Bartenders add fresh lime juice to complete the Moscow Mule’s recipe before serving the classic cocktail in its signature copper mug.
Are Moscow Mule Mugs Necessary?
Asking if a Moscow Mule tastes as good in a different vessel is like asking if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The answer is yes… sort of.
You’ve probably had that disappointing moment when you’ve ordered a Moscow Mule and it arrives in a highball glass instead of a copper mug. Sure, the drink still tastes good but the experience is not quite the same. We’ve been there and done that too.
So, while you can certainly craft and drink Moscow Mule drinks in highball glasses at home, we say splurge and buy a couple Moscow mugs. While the mugs will cost about the same as a bottle of decent vodka, you’ll enjoy them long after the vodka bottle makes its way to the recycling bin.
As a bonus, these copper mugs will keep your drink refreshingly cold until you take your final sip.
Click here to buy two Moscow Mule mugs from Amazon.
History of the Moscow Mule
We’d like to tell you a story about how the Moscow Mule was invented in Russia and eventually made its way to America via spies escaping the cold war with the recipe strategically hidden in their cargo. But, alas, that story is a fantasy.
The Moscow Mule’s actual origin story doesn’t involve Moscow at all. Instead, cocktail historians trace the drink’s creation to 1939 when Smirnoff’s president John G. Martin collaborated with Jack Morgan, the owner of Los Angeles bar Cock ‘n’ Bull. The duo created the Moscow Mule recipe using two ingredients that Americans had yet to embrace – vodka and ginger beer.
As it turns out, combining vodka and ginger beer and adding fresh lime juice worked better than Martin and Moran likely expected. But they didn’t stop there – the alliterative duo went the extra step by serving their drink in a copper mug and giving it an exotic name inspired by vodka’s homeland.
Moscow Mule Ingredients
Despite the drink’s sophisticated, spicy flavor, the classic Moscow Mule recipe has a super short ingredient list that includes the following four items:
You probably already have these ingredients in your pantry or home bar. If not, you should be able to secure them at your local market or liquor store.
Any generic vodka will work in this Moscow Mule recipe. Accordingly, we recommend using the vodka bottle that you already have in your home bar.
We used Stolichnaya vodka in our recipe in a nod to the cocktail’s dubious Russia connection. Since Stolichnaya is actually produced in Riga, perhaps Smirnoff would have been a more appropriate choice.
Fever-Tree is our typical choice when it comes to ginger beer. The company blends fermented ginger root from Cochin, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to create this spicy yet balanced mixer. We like the way Fever-Tree ginger beer tastes in various cocktails including the Moscow Mule.
Click here to buy Fever-Tree Ginger Beer from Amazon.
How To Craft a Moscow Mule
Crafting a Moscow Mule at home is both easy and fast. This drink doesn’t require any special tools or equipment beyond the following three items:
Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these items. They’re all easy to procure and you can improvise with other items in a pinch. For example, you could use an angled measuring cup instead of a jigger and a metal straw instead of a spoon.
Click here to discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.
The first step in our Moscow Mule recipe is to measure the vodka. We like to use a Japanese jigger to secure accurate measurements and avoid potential spillage.
Click here to buy a Japanese jigger if you need a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
The second step is to pour the vodka into a Moscow Mule mug. If you don’t have one of these special copper mugs, you can use a highball glass instead.
After you measure and pour cold ginger beer and fresh lime juice into your mug or glass, all that’s left to do is stir and add crushed ice cubes. If you have a metal straw, you can use it in lieu of a mixing spoon.
Optional garnishes include lime wheels and mint springs. We like to garnish our Moscow Mules with lime wheels sliced from the same lime that we use for the lime juice.
Slice your lime wheels BEFORE you squeeze the lime juice.
Moscow Mule Alternatives
Once you experience how easy it is to craft a Moscow Mule at home, it’s a slippery slope before you raid your liquor cabinet to experiment with other liquors. Here are some ideas to get you started on your mule mixology journey:
Moscow Mule Recipe
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces ginger beer
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- crushed ice
- lime wheel for garnish (optional)
- mint sprig (optional)
- Pour vodka, ginger beer and lime juice into a copper mug.
- Stir with a cocktail spoon or metal straw.
- Fill mug with crushed ice.
- Optional - Garnish with a lime wheel and/or a mint sprig.
- You can use a highball glass if you don't have a copper mug.
- Adjust the vodka/ginger beer ratio if you want a boozier cocktail or the opposite.
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Japanese Jigger - Premium Double Cocktail Jigger, 1oz/2oz made from Stainless Steel 304
Manual Lemon Lime Squeezer, DZY Metal Rustproof Citrus Press Juicer - Handheld Lemon Juicer with Solid Squeezer Bowl (2.75 inch Diameter), Extracting Lemon Juice and More Fruit
Hiware LZS13B 12 Inches Stainless Steel Mixing Spoon, Spiral Pattern Bar Cocktail Shaker Spoon
Gourmia GIC9635 Ice Shaver – Manual Hand Crank Operated Ice Breaker with Stainless Steel Blades for Fast Crushing – BPA Free
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.