The Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule Cocktail
The Moscow Mule is a buck, or mule cocktail that became popular in the United States between the 1940s and the 1960s. Today, the delicious drink maintains a high degree of popularity based on its strong taste and retro appeal, and it is an important part of the standard litany of cocktails that any competent bartender should know. In addition, the Moscow Mule’s inception marks an interesting historical turning-point, as its sudden popularity paved the way for vodka to become the staple of American cocktails that it is today.

In its original iteration and standard form today, the Moscow Mule is made up of one part lime juice, two parts vodka, and three parts ginger beer (although the amount of ginger beer sometimes ranges from two parts to four parts). The cocktail is typically served on the rocks, traditionally in a chilled copper cup but often in a highball glass; a lime wedge is the standard garnish to be found on the drink. The type of ginger beer used in the drink is usually a high-quality naturally brewed brand like Reed’s.
Key Ingredients
The Moscow Mule is sometimes alternatively known as the Vodka Buck, the Vodka Mule, or the Russian Mule. As with most cocktails, there are a few different popular variations of the Moscow Mule, with names altered mainly on the basis on the real or perceived origin of the liquor used in lieu of vodka. When Jäegermeister is used instead of vodka, the result is a Jäger Mule; Tequila creates a Mexican Mule; Irish whiskey a Dublin Donkey; bourbon a Kentucky Mule; dry gin a Mississippi Mule.

Invented in 1941 by two major industry players—at the location of the famous Chatham Hotel in Manhattan, New York City no less—the cocktail rode into the United States well before vodka was a common American drink. At the time, vodka, known colloquially as “white whiskey,” was an exotic, little-known, and unpopular drink in the United States; ginger was the standard and most popular clear spirit for Americans before the Moscow Mule came around. Vodka producers trying to penetrate the American liquor market, however, hoped to find a vehicle for enhancing their product’s appeal.

The idea for this drink was concocted by John G. Martin (a liquor and food distributor who worked with vodka producer Smirnoff, Co.) and Jack Morgan (a beer producer). Martin and Morgan hoped to find a way to broaden and enhance vodka’s appeal for American drinkers. According to legend, Martin and Morgan were sipping vodka with random chasers, combinations, and garnishes, when they happened upon the combination of the Russian spirit with ginger beer and a bit of lime. Having passed around the innovative combination to friends and colleagues, they found the drink to be a strong, delicious and seductive cocktail. Associating vodka with Russia, and observing the signature “mule-kick” of the ginger beer, the duo christened their creation the “Moscow Mule.”
Moscow Mule Cocktail Recipe
John Martin’s company, Smirnoff, used the new cocktail to spearhead a vodka marketing campaign across the nation. From its inception on the East Coast, the Moscow Mule quickly found its way west, where it became a hit in glamorous Hollywood and eventually went on to be a steady favorite in bars and clubs from Seattle to San Diego. A seismic shift in the liquor industry occurred as, over time, vodka replaced gin as the most popular clear spirit in the country. Before long—and much to the delight of Smirnoff, John G. Martin and Jack Morgan—the Moscow Mule helped to usher in a veritable vodka craze that stirred the nation in the 1940s and 50s and has assured vodka’s place as a staple American spirit.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer, financial analyst, and content manager at, a site dedicated to empowering consumers to save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education.

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