The Moscow mule is a refreshing and easy vodka highball that uses ginger beer. Along with the likes of the white Russian, it was designed to sell vodka to U.S. drinkers in the 1930s and 1940s. Before this time, vodka was relatively unknown to Americans, though it didn't take long for them to fall in love with the clear spirit.
This is one of the easiest drinks to make and it may quickly become your new favorite vodka highball. It has a snappy spice that is unique, refreshing, and invigorating, spectacular in its simplicity.
The Moscow mule requires just three easy-to-find ingredients, two of which can be played with to customize to your own taste.
Watch Now: Classic Moscow Mule
Gather the ingredients.
Pour the vodka and lime juice into a highball glass with ice cubes.
Top off with the ginger beer.
Garnish with the lime wedge.
Serve and enjoy!
If you would like to go a traditional route, serve your Moscow mule in a copper mug.
The Ginger Beer
The Moscow mule is simple: vodka, lime, ginger beer. That's right, ginger beer—not ginger ale or any of the lemon-lime sodas available. This cocktail requires ginger beer.
It is a completely different drink without this single element because all of those other sodas are tame and boring compared to the snap of a great ginger beer. The ginger beer is the real appeal to the Moscow mule; the vodka and lime are mere complements to it and until you have one made properly, you have not experienced it completely.
There are many great ginger beers to choose from and they vary in the intensity of their ginger spice flavor. Some have a softer spice that is nearly at the level of ginger ale and others are very strong, poignant and unforgettable.
Jamaican ginger beer is known for having the stronger spice and there are many options available. Some of the best Jamaican ginger beers can be found at international markets and it's definitely recommended explore those options. The best part is that their stock is constantly changing so it is a different experience with every drink.
Two ginger beers that were developed specifically for cocktails like the Moscow mule are Q Ginger Beer and Fever-Tree Ginger Beer. Both make an excellent mule and tend to be a balance between the mild and spicy.
The other topic of the Moscow mule is in the drinkware. The copper cups have likely had something to do with the drink's popularity. Everyone wants to know what you're drinking in that shiny metal mug and there is a certain appeal to changing it up from the ordinary glass routine.
The cup is not essential, so you don't have to go out and buy a set unless you really enjoy it.
How Strong Is the Moscow Mule?
The strength of the Moscow mule is really going to depend on how it is made, and particularly how much ginger beer goes into the drink. The average Moscow mule is fairly tame and if an 80-proof vodka is used with even as little as a 4-ounce pour of ginger beer, then the drink is a mild 11 percent ABV (22 proof). It is equal to the average glass of wine.
There are a couple of claims to the creation of the Moscow mule. One dates to 1939 at the Cock N' Bull pub in Hollywood. The story goes that the bar's owner, Jack Morgan, partnered up Smirnoff owner John Martin to promote that vodka along with the bar's house ginger beer. It was a win-win situation for the team because both brands are alive and well today.
Another story jumps ahead to 1941 at the same bar when the head bartender, Wes Price, needed to unload liquor stock that wasn't selling. This successful promotion was enhanced by a marketing campaign in which a Moscow mule made with Smirnoff was served in copper mugs. The mugs became a trademark vessel for the drink, the campaign was a success for the Russian vodka, and the drink has been popular ever since.
The drink came back into the spotlight in the 21st century and often it seemed to be the talk of every bar in the world. This resurgence introduced an entirely new generation of drinkers to the great taste of the Moscow mule, but it has also led to a few misconceptions.
Since this is such a popular cocktail, it's no surprise that it has served as inspiration for many more drink recipes. It's the perfect base for experimentation and you can really have fun playing with its flavors.
In modern mule variations, ginger beer is almost always included. Some recipes switch out the vodka and others add extra flavors or heat things up. Here are a few cocktails Moscow mule fans are sure to love:
- Stoli Alibi: The ginger beer is swapped out for a combination of ginger simple syrup and club soda, resulting in a sweeter, less spicy version of the vodka cocktail.
- Foghorn: Switch your vodka out for gin and you have this classic highball that is sure to please.
- Gin Gin Mule: Add dimension to the gin-based foghorn by muddling a little mint into the drink. The cooling herb's flavor is a delightful contrast to a great ginger beer.
- Christmas Mule: Warm things up in winter with pear vodka and ginger beer that is heated just enough to create a steaming drink.