Vodka - 1 1/2 oz
Lime Juice - 1/2 oz
Ginger Beer - 3 1/2 oz
Build everything in a copper mug or collins glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with a lime wedge.
It’s funny how I never took a deep look at this infamous cocktail in my whole career of bartending, but the reason is simple: I didn’t have the iconic copper mug yet… but now I do!
Now, the Moscow Mule, also known as a Vodka Buck (I admit the latter sounds much, much less interesting) is a drink that has possibly changed the course of cocktail history forever. Just to point out, a Buck is a type of mixed drinks that contains a spirit, ginger ale/beer, and a little citrus juice, hence the name. Some other examples of a Buck are the Dark ‘N’ Stormy and Mamie Taylor etc.
So what’s so special about the Moscow Mule, well, it merely single-handedly brought vodka to popularity, because before the invention of this drink, vodka as a spirit wasn’t very well received in the United States, and this is the story behind it. The drink was invented by a John G. Martin, an executive at Heublein Inc., after the company bought the rights to Smirnoff vodka in 1938. The brand Smirnoff (Smirnov) was of course originated in Russia, but the company moved to several different countries before it’s finally settled in the USA. John Martin was a smart bloke, he marketed the Smirnoff vodka as “a white whiskey, it has no taste, no smell.” as well as the famous line, “Smirnoff leaves you breathless.” This of course refers to the lightness of vodka, so that daytime drinkers can consume alcohol without giving away a mouthful of alcoholic smell.
One day Martin was at the Cock ‘n’ Bull Tavern in L.A. talking to a certain John A. “Jack” Morgan, the owner of the pub, also the president of Cock ‘n’ Bull Products, John Martin had this brilliant idea of combining his not-so-popular Smirnoff vodka with some of the Cock ‘n’ Bull ginger beer that Jack Morgan was desperately trying to get rid off. So Martin bought a Polaroid camera and some copper mugs, he would go to a bar, take a photo of the bartender holding the mug, then take the picture to a different bar, show the picture to the bartender and ask whether he/she had heard of this new drink that’s “storming the nation”. Repeat this process a number of times, and you get the whole town talking about the Moscow Mule.
All right, so that’s that. Let’s get on the recipe part. In theory, the Moscow Mule is a pretty plain drink, but it is the simplicity and refreshing quality that made it a fine choice for the summer.
- Instead of the original Smirnoff, I’m using Stolichnaya vodka as the base, to at least get the “Moscow” part right; unlike Smirnoff, Stoli is still a Russian brand (although it’s sometimes produced in Latvia).
- For the lime I’m using a common 1/2 oz, sometimes you have people squeezing a piece of lime wedge into the drink, I reckon you need that 1/2 oz to bring out the freshness.
- For the ginger beer, I’m using Idris brand’s Fiery Ginger Beer, because in a Moscow Mule, only the spiciest ginger beer will give the “mule’s kick”, your average ginger ale is definitely not acceptable here.
- I’m building the drink on very large lumps of ice, for the slower dilution. The coldness is not the primary concern here, but slowing down the dilution of an already diluted drink is.
- Stir the vodka with lime juice first, then add the ginger beer. A final touch that I personally like to have is a few dashes of aromatic bitters on the surface to introduce some extra spices to the smell and flavour of the drink.
- Rather than the classic lime wedge, I’m using the spent lime shell as a garnish, it should still retain some of the essential oil on the surface, this will further complicate the aroma.
- The ratio between vodka and ginger beer is a personally thing, some people prefer a little under 1:2, some prefer over 1:3… but for me, I like a ratio that’s somewhere between 1:2 and 1:3, it won’t be way too strong, but it surely isn’t as overly diluted as 1:3.
So there you have it, a simple, and dare I say it, “boring” drink can be made interesting with a few twists. The signature copper mug has its advantages, as a metal drinkware, it’s a great conductor, this means it transfers the coldness evenly throughout the drink, you’d also be able to feel the coldness on your hand. I’d also recommend to drink it without a straw, so your lips will have an equally amazing experience. Not to worry if you don’t have a copper mug though, any tall glass like a highball or collins glass is also suitable for serving it in. This copper mug cost me 26 pounds, that’s 40 US dollars; although I will say that my copper mug is much better looking than most common Moscow Mule mugs out there, but I doubt many people are willing to spend this much for a single cup.