Assembling the (Almost) Perfect Moscow Mule

Last Christmas, my ever-thoughtful sister Jackie-O presented me with a set of six Moscow Mule mugs to aid and abet my cocktail adventures. Jackie-O, usually devoted to other varieties of vodka highballs, had herself recently developed a liking for the spicy, slightly citrusy spirit of the Moscow Mule. While she was content to sip her Moscow Mules in any old glass, she thought I probably was more fussy about the barware.

Oh, what a generous assumption. Considering I have been known on more than one occasion to drink wine out of a mug and martinis out of wine glasses, I can hardly claim to be a stickler for matching beverages with their proper containers. But now that I had the copper mugs, I would, by God, use them exclusively for Moscow Mules. And also perhaps juice when I was too lazy to run the dishwasher.

Ted Haigh calls the Moscow Mule "a good example of the cocktail creep," because it's served with ice and therefore is technically a highball (a category of drinks once separate from but now conflated with the cocktail). Highball, cocktail, vodka buck -- this drink by any name would taste as refreshing at the end of a languid summer afternoon. Traditional recipes usually resemble something like this:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces ginger beer
  • juice of half a lime

Squeeze lime juice into Mule mug. Add ice, vodka and ginger beer. Drop in lime peel.

Any spicy ginger beer works well with a Moscow Mule, but for the sake of authenticity (I mean, I already have the mugs, so why hold back?), I like to use Cock 'n' Bull ginger beer, named for the tavern where the Moscow Mule was supposedly first invented. John Martin, who had recently acquired Smirnoff vodka, was visiting the bar and learned that its owner, Jack Morgan, had an excess of ginger beer on his hands. Morgan's willingness to get rid of the ginger beer plus Martin's eagerness to promote vodka as a suitable spirit for mixed drinks led to some experimentation...thus the Moscow Mule was born. And the copper mug? For that we can thank Morgan's savvy lady friend, who had inherited a flagging copper products business and was looking for an in on the deal.

Now, this particular Moscow Mule is just "almost" perfect. While I had the proper glass and ginger beer, I lacked the Smirnoff because, as you know, you can't buy hard alcohol on a Sunday. Because it's the Lord's Day. Remember, there's no separation of church and state in this country. Wait a minute...

ANYWAY, non-Smirnoff vodka worked just fine. I had just one, in pious moderation.

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Joanna O'Leary