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The Moscow Mule: Everything You Need to Know

Explore the fascinating history of Moscow Mules, a delicious cocktail that combines the flavors of ginger beer, lime juice and vodka in a distinctive copper mug. The drink was created to promote vodka, and it has grown to become one of the most popular cocktails in the U.S.

The Moscow Mule: Everything You Need to Know

 

The Use of the Iconic Copper Mugs Was Pure Luck

The story behind the use of copper mugs is similar to how vodka and ginger beer. A Russian woman named Sophie Berezinski had designed copper mugs but struggled to sell them. So, she immigrated to California and visited numerous bars, hoping to sell at least 2,000 of her mugs; if she didn’t, her husband would put them in the trash.

Finally, she arrived at the Cock n' Bull bar and was able to sell all of her mugs because the owner needed a distinctive container for his new cocktail – the Moscow Mule. Copper mugs turned out to be suitable for the drink because both have Russian elements, and they keep the drink super-cold. They also look very striking and pique peoples’ interests as they are served at the bar or tableside.


Moscow Mules Helped Promote Vodka in the U.S.

Because the Moscow Mule was created in L.A., Hollywood actors and socialites got acquainted with the drink, and it quickly became one of their favorites. Martin visited bars where he would make the drink, ask the bartender to pose with it, and take two pictures using his Polaroid camera. He kept one picture and gave the other to the bartender. Because of this promotion, the news of the Moscow Mule spread like wildfire. To begin with, the Moscow Mule was made exclusively with Smirnoff vodka. When the cocktail gained fame and recognition, so too did Smirnoff and, by extension, vodka. Almost overnight, vodka went from being rejected and ignored to one of the most consumed liquors in the country.


joseph mccarthy in front of microphones

It Was a Victim of McCarthyism but Survived

The Moscow Mule's popularity suffered during the Cold War, as the scourge of McCarthyism and anti-communist sentiment swept the country in the 1950s. During this time, xenophobic U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy campaigned against communism by blacklisting everything related to Russia. Even though the Moscow Mule was created in the U.S., it was still boycotted during this time due to its Russia-inflected name. There were even allegations that Smirnoff supported anti-American conspiracies. Fortunately, the rumors eventually subsided, and the Moscow Mule resumed its momentum to become one of the most popular cocktails of today.


The Drink’s Cloudy Origins

The origin of the Moscow Mule is a subject of much debate and has vastly differing accounts depending on who tells it. The most widely known story attributes the drink's creation to Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock n' Bull tavern, and John Martin, president of G.F. Heublein Brothers, Inc., a spirits company.

However, some people believe that it was Wes Price, a bartender at the Cock n' Bull, who first combined vodka, ginger beer and lime juice. Another tale is that it was Martin and Morgan who created the drink, with the help of Rudolph Kunett, who had recently bought the rights to Smirnoff vodka.

Furthermore, there is even debate about who provided the signature copper mugs for the drink. While most accounts credit the aforementioned Sophie Berezinski for the mugs, another story suggests it was actually Martin's girlfriend, Osalene Schmitt, who provided the copper mugs from her family's copper mine.

Regardless of the different accounts, the Moscow Mule has become a beloved classic cocktail and continues to be enjoyed by many. Here is a video of none other than John Martin discussing the origins of the Moscow Mule.

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