What Came First: Moscow Mule or Its Copper Mug?

The Moscow mule has been around since World War II but has no connection to the seminal war that enveloped much of the world. Instead, it appears its existence is due to the distinctive copper mug in which it traditionally is served. It is an ironic case of a mug looking for a beverage to give its purpose, which eventually gave rise to the original Moscow mule recipe. It would be reasonable to conclude the drink originated in or near Russia’s capital city, but it is not. Let’s take a closer look at how the popular cocktail came about.

How Copper Mugs Spawned a Cocktail

As the story goes, a Russian woman named Sophie Berezinski helped her father to design and build about 2,000 mugs made from copper. The hand-hammered mugs were virtually impossible to sell in Russia, so Sophie immigrated to the United States to try to market them there. Her initial efforts were fruitless, but she found two interested buyers at a bar in Manhattan sometime in 1941. Some also say the bar was located in Hollywood, so the founding is somewhat of a legend.

With the help of the two interested buyers, it was time to create something suitable for serving in the copper mugs. Eventually, they would create the original Moscow mule recipe, which requires the proper vessel to keep it very, very cold. The copper mugs were the ideal tool for that task, and the marriage of the Moscow mule and its copper service mug began.

Birth of the Moscow Mule

After some experimentation, our trio of cocktail heroes created the Moscow mule, which is to be served ice cold in an equally ice-cold copper mug. The Moscow mule recipe is relatively simple. It uses 1.5 parts vodka and 0.5 parts lime juice topped with ginger beer along with lots of ice. A line wedge garnish completes the cocktail.

The Moscow mule is a strong, flavorful, and deliciously cold cocktail that is refreshing to drink on a hot summer day or night in Manhattan, California, or wherever else you might be located. Some choose to add bitters to give the cocktail more body. Inevitably, others would tinker with the recipe and might include tequila, rum, or maybe even a flavored vodka.

Moscow Mule and McCarthyism

The cold war with the USSR would prove to be unfortunate for the Moscow mule due to its name. As the cold war silently raged, all things seemingly communist lost their appeal to most Americans. Since it was named after Russia’s capital city, the Moscow mule became unpopular  – especially as Wisconsin Sen. Eugene McCarthy sought to root out communism wherever it might hide in the United States.

Fortunately, the Cold War eventually resolved itself, and the Moscow mule survived despite its perceived Russian connection. It would appear it truly is stubborn as a mule. A growing love of vodka in the United States gave the Moscow mule a second chance at life as a popular cocktail, and it has endured ever since.