Did you know that the Moscow Mule is the most googled cocktail? This piece of trivia was on the drink menu at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort veranda bar in St.Petersburg and with the Florida heat I had to give it a try.
Cornelius, the escalator salesman from Chicago also sitting at the bar, chirped in that it was a great choice for the weather, in fact it’s one of his favourite drinks.
This is what I like about St.Petersburg, even visitors are cordial and it’s easy to make friends. The bartender chimed in that it was a great drink and with that I was sold.
While the Moscow Mule is this summer’s hottest cocktail, the drink isn’t new at all. In fact, it was the hot drink in the 1950’s when the United States jumped on a cocktail wagon.
While vodka is a common spirit now it wasn’t the liquor of choice in the 1940s and the popularity of vodka in cocktails is attributed to the invention of the Moscow Mule.
Who Invented the Moscow Mule
The Moscow Mule is also known as a vodka buck, which means it’s a mixed drink with either ginger ale, ginger beer or citrus juice.
The name refers to the Russian vodka used in the drink, and not surprisingly it was invented in 1939 when the president of Smirnoff, president of a ginger beer company and president of a spirits distribution company sat down for drinks.
Vodka wasn’t selling well and neither was ginger beer but together they became one of the most popular drinks in the 1950s.
I prefer tart and refreshing cocktails and the combination of spicy ginger beer and sour lime is a great cocktail for a hot day. The key to the Moscow Mule is the copper mug. In fact Cornelius my new bar friend told me if it’s served in anything else he won’t drink it.
The copper mug may keep the drink cold but originally it was just a marketing ploy. John Martin, the vodka distributor bought them to set the drink apart from others.
He would go to a bar with a Polaroid camera and get bartenders to pose with the mug and the bottle of Smirnoff vodka to take two photos.
He would leave one photo with the bartender but take the other to a competing bar to convince bar owners they were missing out on the hottest drink. That ploy was successful and sales of Smirnoff took off.
Sadly when US-Russian relations started going South and Americans began to fear Communists the sales of Moscow Mules started to slide.
While neither Smirnoff nor the cocktail was a Russian drink at all, the inference was enough for sales to tank. However, it’s now enjoying a resurgence like many other classic cocktails.
Moscow Mule Recipe
A very simple recipe which is essentially vodka, ginger beer and lime. Recipes vary on the ratio of these three items and it’s evolved over the years. It’s common now to see mint as a garnish. And depending on where you order one you may see it served with a cucumber.
If you want to jazz it up a bit the Moscow Mule is a forgiving recipe. You can easily add berries or fruit like pomegranate or fresh summer peaches. I also think elderflower cordial would be wonderful in this recipe.
Prefer rum instead of vodka? Swap it out and you have a dark and stormy.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a copper mug at home. A highball glass will do!