Curious how to make a Moscow Mule? Here you can learn everything about the history of the drink, how to make a Moscow Mule, different variations on the classic mule to keep drinks interesting, the tools of the trade, and even a bit about Oprah. Let’s dive in!
What is a Moscow Mule?
Now despite the name and vodka being one of the main ingredients, a Moscow Mule is not Boris Yeltsin’s favorite drink. Heck is not even remotely Russian. The Moscow Mule was invented either in Manhattan or Hollywood (depending on which version of history you believe) and was manufactured in Connecticut.
Why are Moscow Mules So Popular?
A Moscow Mule is the perfect summer drink. It’s cold (thanks to the copper mug) refreshing and easy to make. Think about it: you only need 3 ingredients (vodka, ginger beer and lime) and all 3 are easy to find. You don’t need to go to bartending school to be able to mix a Moscow Mule and Alabama Slammers or Cosmopolitans are much harder to prepare.
Another reason for the Moscow Mule’s enduring appeal is the taste: the kick of the ginger mixed with citrus of the lime, and the plain vodka. Don’t ask me to explain the mechanics behind it but this unique combination balances and compliments all the flavors involved. As an added bonus, the vodka will make you giddy and tipsy but without the unwanted side effect of a hangover the next day.
Bartenders and bar hoppers alike love the Moscow Mule because…it’s quick to make. No more waiting at the bar for 10 minutes while the bartender mixes a complicated mess of a cocktail.
Finally, the distinct copper mug grabs attention wherever it’s used to serve a drink. The vessel that holds the beverage is as unique as the drink’s history.
History of the Moscow Mule
As with all legends, the origin story of the Moscow Mule is clouded in secrets and myths. While the founders don’t agree on how the drink was invented what’s beyond debate is that the drink took off shortly after being introduced to bars across the country.
Unfortunately, the Moscow Mule’s star fell just as quickly as it had risen and the drink went out of fashion due to the political climate of the time. The red scare gripped America and everything that was even remotely connected to Russia (even cocktails from Connecticut) was blacklisted. Journalist Walter Winchell, one of the few sane voices of the time, wrote: “The Moscow Mule is US-made, so don’t be political when you’re thirsty.”
But the damage was done by Communism and Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Moscow Mule almost went extinct.
The Comeback Mule
The Moscow Mule fell out of favor for over 40 years until the cocktail revival arrived around 2005. Over the past 10 years, bar requests for Moscow Mules have risen every year.
In recent years, Oprah Winfrey has championed the drink, calling it her “favorite cocktail”. She even prepared a mule live on TV at Yosemite Park. Other park goers were astonished to see the queen of daytime TV walking towards their tent holding a tray of copper mugs. Learn about Oprah’s Mule here.
The Moscow Mule’s popularity has been boosted further with appearances in hit TV shows such as Better Call Saul and Mad Men – featuring hard-drinking advertising executives.
How to Make a Moscow Mule
We recommend that all Moscow Mule newbies start by mastering the classic mule. It’s important to walk before you start running in the world of cocktails and perfecting the basic Mule will give you the perfect foundation to start experimenting later on.
How to make a Moscow Mule? Here are the basic steps:
- Squeeze lime juice into a solid copper mug
- Add 2 or 3 ice cubes
- Pour in a little vodka
- Fill the rest up with ginger beer
- Serve and enjoy
Secret tip: do the opposite of James Bond – for best results a Moscow Mule should be stirred not shaken. This simple template of spirit, ginger, lime, and bubbles, is the reason for the drinks enduring popularity.
Before you learn how to make a Moscow mule, we need to truly understand the ingredients. Now while I wrote earlier that the ingredients to make a Moscow Mule are common and therefore easy to find, they do have their nuances.
For example, a lime isn’t always a lime. A Key Lime will add a more acidic touch to your cocktail while a Persian Limes are larger (more juice to squeeze) and less bitter.
Vodka differs between brands. Depending on your palate and your budget, the vodka you choose will alter the taste of your Moscow Mule.
What about ginger beers? Here’s where we have the most variety of ingredients. Some ginger beers are alcohol-free, others are gluten-free, and some are too close to ginger ale for our liking.
Even something as basic as ice cubes can alter the Moscow Mule. Many Moscow Mule enthusiasts say the crushed ice is the secret to the perfect mule. Others argue that crushed ice melts too quickly and waters down the ice. And that it’s also nice to pour the ginger beer over large, solid cubes.
If you invest in a good copper mug you won’t have to worry about your ice melting at all. Experiment with different textures of ice to see what you and your guests enjoy.
With ginger beer as the base, a Moscow Mule can go in different directions. You can start to get creative by swapping the vodka out for something else: Bourbon, Gin or Rum. Take a read of this article (links to variations articles) if you want to learn how to prepare Kentucky Mules, Tokyo Mules, etc.
What You’ll Need
Learning a new skill, whether that be fishing or golf, requires an investment in the right gear.
Even though it’s technically the finishing touch to the cocktail, the first tool you’ll need is a solid copper mug.
We discuss the benefits of copper mugs all over this site but let me address the two main concerns right here:
- Copper mugs don’t make your drink taste of copper. In fact, copper makes the Moscow Mule taste even better.
- Drinking liquid from a copper vessel is not dangerous. In fact, copper can make your healthier. Copper also keeps your drink ice-cold for longer.
Here are few optional tools you might need when preparing Moscow Mules for friends and family:
- Stirring Rod
- Ice Tray
- Chopping Board. We recommend a good wooden one because they are tough and resist bacteria growth.
A Copper Mug A-Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Copper has a long history of health benefits. Really long. The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans as well as the Aztecs, all believed in the healing power of copper.
Realise that body does not produce copper naturally. We need to get it either from our diet or from drinking out of a copper vessel. If you suspect that you are deficient in copper, here are some good food sources:
- Beef Liver
- Dried Apricots
If you don’t want to eat beef liver or take a supplement, you can increase your copper intake by drinking from copper mugs and preparing foods using copper cookware. Many of the best chefs in the world cook using cast-iron or copper pans.
In the same way that most people living in the developed world are deficient in vitamin D no matter how much time they spend outdoors, many people are copper deficient.
Here are some of the benefits of having optimum copper levels in your body:
- Improves metabolism
- Provides the body with energy
- May prevent neurodegenerative diseases
- Reduces symptoms of arthritis
- Helps balance thyroid
- Prevents anemia or low iron levels: iron and copper work together in the body
- Copper builds collagen: this what keeps you looking younger by improving your skin.
- Reversing hair that is either gray or thinning.
- Preventing sunburn and giving a nice tan: copper plays a part in developing melanin which helps protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays and helps you get a tan
- May prevent osteoporosis
- And many more
The lesson is: don’t spend money on expensive supplements. Buy a good copper mug; take a drink of water from it every day and you will look and feel better than you have in years.
Caring For Your Copper Mugs
The number 1 complaint we hear from people who have just bought a set of copper mugs is: tarnishing. Tarnishing simply means spots or discoloring appearing on your copper mugs.
We have extensive resources on this site detailing how to care for your copper mugs so that they stay shiny and non-toxic in the long term.
But for now, here are 2 quick tips that will prevent your copper mugs becoming so tarnished that you have to throw them in the garbage.
Follow these two simple steps and you will avoid 90% of copper mug care problems:
- Wash by hand. That means NO DISHWASHERS.
- Keep them dry. It’s not much fun staying up to wash the dishes after everyone has gone home from the party. But leaving either drink or soap suds in your copper mugs overnight will ruin them quicker than anything.
If you’re past the point of no return and you want to know how to get save a copper mug that has already begun to discolor, check out this article:
Moscow Mule and the Family
We hope this article teaches you exactly how to make a Moscow Mule! This is one special cocktail. See…
Good food and drink have brought people together since the beginning of time. The best occasions for sharing Moscow Mules are when you are at the bar with your work colleagues, or enjoying a summer barbecue with your neighbors, or entertaining guests at your house.
The Moscow Mule also spreads good vibes in another vital way – as a gift. The 3 wise men didn’t bring copper gifts but if you want to give a thoughtful and inexpensive present during the holidays, a set of copper mugs ticks all the boxes.
You could add a fresh lime and a bottle of ginger beer to the box to make a gift set. Getting the mugs engraved is nice extra touch.
These types of gifts cost next-to-nothing but the memories last a lifetime. Despite what is commonly believed, expensive cars and clothes won’t make us happier. The good news is that sharing drinks with those that make you smile just might.
I hope to share a Moscow Mule with you someday!