Moscow Mule

Fresh lime juice, vodka and spicy ginger beer are the hallmarks of an iconic Moscow Mule.

Moscow Mule
Photo: Getty Images
Total Time:
5 mins

Have you ever wondered if the Moscow Mule has anything to do with Russia's largest city? Or even mules (the shoes, or the animal) for that matter? And, why is the spicy and fresh drink served in a copper mug? While the Moscow Mule comes together quickly with just a few ingredients, it has a surprisingly complex flavor and an equally unexpected history.

The Moscow Mule's origin story starts with a tactful combination: "In 1941 at the Cock 'N' Bull in Hollywood, the bar owner found himself unable to sell either the cases of Smirnoff vodka he had purchased or the bottles of house made ginger beer," writes Noah Kaufman. Smirnoff, a Russian vodka, had recently been purchased, and brought to America by a Russian expat. The purchase was a poor financial decision, since vodka was a relatively new spirit in American bars and had little to no following at the time. But later on, this pantry-clearing cocktail would become a true hit — in fact, according to Kaufman, within two years it even bolstered Smirnoff to be "the vodka of choice for a properly made [Moscow] mule for decades."

It's fitting that the cocktail that was invented by throwing a few leftover things together gets served in a unique, some might say iconic, vessel that shares a similar story. "An immigrant named Sophie Berezinski came to California with 2,000 copper mugs she had designed in her father's copper shop in Russia," writes Kaufman. She found interested buyers at none other than Cock 'N' Bull who, somewhat randomly, decided to serve their newly minted Moscow Mules in the metallic mugs. While they give the drink some added glamor, the mugs stay cool, stunting the dilution of the cocktail as the ice melts more slowly.

Since a Moscow Mule contains just a few ingredients, it's important to reach for the highest quality when you can. Use sharp, spicy ginger beer for a full-flavored experience. And, as with nearly all cocktails, use lime juice from fresh, whole limes in lieu of the bottled stuff. Top everything with lots of ice to keep the cocktail chill — extra points if you use a copper mug.


  • 1/2 lime, plus 1 lime wheel for garnish

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • Ice

  • 4 ounces chilled ginger beer


  1. Squeeze 1/2 ounce lime juice into a chilled copper mug or collins glass and drop in the spent lime shell. Add the vodka, fill the mug with ice and stir well. Stir in the ginger beer and garnish with the lime wheel.


Recipe from Food & Wine Cocktails 2015

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