A few years ago, right during the onset of what I call the craft cocktail revolution, the Moscow Mule became popular and began to appear on cocktail menus across the country. Always with its requisite copper mug. A great drink with a great presentation.
I knew the cocktail was a classic one, drummed up from the past (as have many others during this revolution), and of course, many creative variations have been invented. But the classic is arguably still the best. What I didn’t know was how exactly it came about.
Believe it or not, it was all a marketing scheme that propelled the Moscow Mule into cocktail history. Back in the late 1930s, the Heublein drinks company purchased the rights to Smirnoff Vodka, then unknown in the US. In fact, Americans were not familiar with, nor drinking vodka at the time.
Circa 1941, the executive in charge of selling Smirnoff to bars was John G. Martin. His friend, Jack Morgan, owned the British pub, Cock ‘n’ Bull in Los Angeles. Jack’s girlfriend owned a company that made copper mugs. So his bartender, Wes Price, invented the Moscow Mule, using Martin’s vodka and the mugs.
But rest was not history just yet. Martin had to convince other bars to sell the drinks – America was still a whiskey country. So he acquired the recently invented Polaroid camera and would go bar hopping, taking two pictures of bartenders holding a bottle of Smirnoff in one hand and a copper mug in the other.
He would leave one picture with the bartender and take the other to the next bar to show them what their competition was selling. Genius!
The Moscow Mule classic recipe is simple, but relies on quality ingredients.
>>2 oz. vodka;
>>3 oz ginger beer (try and use good stuff);
>>Juice of a half lime.
Add all ingredients into a copper Moscow Mule mug over ice.
Garnish with a lime wheel.