A Moscow mule is one of those drinks that’s easy to make, delicious, and perfect just about anytime. Here’s how to make it the way they did back in the 1940s and some fun variations to try out today!
Moscow mules taste excellent all year round as the versatile drink can adapt to seasonal flavors, but we’ll admit they do pair best with the warm days of summer. Let’s dig in and look at where the Moscow mule came from, how to make the original mule, and then we’ll share some flavor-packed variations on the original recipe you’re sure to love!
Vodka seems like a ubiquitous foundation to so many cocktails today but that wasn’t always the case in America. In the early 20th century the dominant alcohol was gin (think of all the old references and jokes to Prohibition-era “bathtub gin” and you’ll get the idea of how much folks liked it back then. In the early 1940s Smirnoff distributors in the United States were trying everything they could think of to get Americans to develop a taste for vodka, mostly to no avail.
Until, that is, John Martin (the president of Heublein Inc, the U.S. Smirnoff distributor) came up with the idea for the Moscow mule while chatting with a friend of his, John Morgan, who owned a bar in Hollywood called the Cock’n Bull. Morgan had a bunch of ginger beer he was having trouble unloading, Maritn had a bunch of vodka nobody wanted to drink, and a few experiments (and a few drinks we’re sure) later, they had a winner on their hands.
The traditional mule drink consists of vodka, ginger beer, and fresh-squeezed lime, built in a copper mug full of ice—if you’re not familiar with “building” a drink, that simply means you make it in the glass you serve it in rather than shake it and pour it.
The very traditional way to build the Moscow mule is as follows:
- Combine 1 1/2 oz vodka and 4 oz ginger beer in a copper mug (or highball glass) filled with ice.
- Add 1/6 oz lime juice.
- Stir gently and garnish with a fresh lime slice.
However, today, many delicious renditions use fresh herbs, berries, and other fun ingredients.
Moscow mules are usually built due to the carbonated soda (ginger beer) added into the mix. That means, instead of shaking the drink, you add all the ingredients then gently stir. A teardrop bar spoon will help with that, and a muddler will come in handy for the fruity versions.
Here’s our shopping list to help you properly stock your bar for Moscow mules!
You can get away with using a bar glass, but the classic copper mugs are what sell this trendy drink. Plus, copper is an excellent conductor, which means your mug will stay chilled— nothing like an ice-cold beverage on a hot day.
The mugs recommended are actually made with stainless steel on the inside and copper-plated around the outside. This is important, as copper doesn’t combine well with acidic ingredients. So if you plan on choosing a different brand, make sure to purchase food-safe mugs to avoid the possibility of copper poisoning. Yikes.
There are plenty of fancy mule recipes that use fruits like berries, peaches, or fresh herbs like basil and mint. If that’s the case, you’ll want a muddler to muddle (or squish out) and release the flavors of these ingredients before adding your alcohol and mixers.
A regular long spoon will work just fine in stirring the ingredients of your Moscow mule. However, if you want a fully stocked bar with all the right gadgets, this teardrop bar spoon is a traditional stirring spoon used in several cocktails that need a gentle merge in ingredients.
While some use ginger ale or ginger elixirs in their mules, intensely flavored ginger beer is the most important component in creating a fantastic mule. You want your ginger beer to burn nice while going down. You’ll know what we mean when you enjoy a proper one. Fever tree makes a premium ginger beer made with three types of ginger, which gives it a sophisticated flavor that is perfect for mules.
You know how to concoct a mule, and with a little shopping under your belt, you have all the tools needed to make one at home. However, if you want a few unique variations, try any of the recipes below.
Although a classic Moscow mule is just perfect on its own, somehow adding a few naturally sweet ingredients like berries transforms it into something special. The strawberry basil combo is one I tried years ago and was absolutely hooked!
The aromatic basil and sweet strawberries are gently broken down with a muddler to release the pleasant flavors that pair just right with spicey ginger! If there is one fancy cocktail to make this summer, it’s a strawberry basil Moscow mule.
Get the Recipe: The Home Cooks Kitchen
Cranberry and ginger make a happy couple, too, and this mule recipe is a perfect example. While this beverage recipe is well suited for the holidays, there is no reason you can’t enjoy a mug full any time of year. Vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and ginger beer make up this classic, and the frozen cranberries, lime wedge, and rosemary sprigs are what make It pretty.
Get the Recipe: This Delicious House
Give your Moscow mule a fun and tropical twist with fruity orange and pineapple juices! It’s sweet, spicey, bubbly, and oh so delicious! Serve it up with a sprig of mint, a few lime wedges, and pineapple wedges too!
Get the Recipe: Half Baked Harvest
Ginger beer and peach flavored vodka go hand in hand with peach nectar and lime juice in this thirst-quenching mule! It’s the perfect way to celebrate the flavors of peach while relaxing back on an Adirondack this summer.
Get the Recipe: Farm Wife Drinks
We’ve discovered that sweet and spicey work well together, but the tart-tasting arils of pomegranate are also delicious in a cold copper mugged drink. So if that berry-licious fruit is one you love most, then give this refresher a try!
Get the Recipe: As Easy As Apple Pie
Moscow mules are simple to make once you have the tools and ingredients. If you aren’t sure you will like it, try one out next time you go out to dinner.