The History of the Moscow Mule

This week, the Moscow Mule was rated the top cocktail in Michigan, according to research undertaken by Versus Reviews. Its easy to see why; who can resist that mouth-watering combination of spicy ginger beer combined with tart lime juice, over the crisp freshness of a good vodka? But who knew that this delicious concoction came from the need to clear out some stock?

Too Much Vodka

The origins of the drink are undisputed – it was invented in the 1940s in the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub, a British-style establishment in Los Angeles. Who may have created the recipe is up for debate. The story goes, that the owner of the bar, Jack Morgan, had bought a big order of Smirnoff vodka, which had recently been acquired by the Heublein drinks company. It hadn’t been selling well, and so Morgan had a cellar full of vodka and ginger beer, which he was also having trouble shifting. In an effort to make some room in his cellar, Morgan got together with Heublein executive John Martin to create the Moscow Mule.

The finishing touch came from a lady called Sophie Berezinski, who had recently emigrated to the US from Russia. She had designed 2,000 copper mugs in her home country but had not been able to sell them. After they had crossed the globe, her husband demanded she get rid of the mugs that were clogging up their home. She went knocking on doors, and happened to walk into the Cock ‘n’ Bull at just the right time.

This story stood for years, until head bartender, Wes Price, claimed that it had actually been his creation, and not that of his boss.

Marketing Genius

Regardless of who invented the drink, it might not have become famous in such a big way if it hadn’t been for Martin and his marketing ideas. He took the Moscow Mule around to all the local pubs and asked the bartenders to pose for a photograph with the drink (in its copper mug) and a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka. He gave a copy to the bartender, for their cooperation, and then took another copy to the next bar, to show them what the competition were selling. This strategy had a huge impact, boosting sales of Smirnoff in the area and cementing the popularity of the Moscow Mule.
He didn’t stop there. Being in LA, there were a number of famous faces appearing in the Cock ‘n’ Bull on a daily basis. Martin encouraged them to pose for pictures with the drink too, and had their names engraved on some of the copper mugs. Nothing like a famous face advertising your wares, after all!

What's in the Name?

The ‘Moscow’ part of the name has two references. One was for Berezinski, which is why the copper mug is so essential to the recipe, and the other was to capitalise on the fact that most Americans considered vodka to be a Russian drink. The ‘Mule’ part of the name refers to the kick that comes from the ginger beer.

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Bartender's top tip

Like cooking, making cocktails is a culinary art that benefits from tasting and adjusting. Before serving, taste your cocktail with a straw or spoon and adjust if necessary. Maybe it needs a touch more sweetness, a bit more acidity to brighten it up, or a dilution adjustment. Personalize each drink to your liking, and don't be afraid to stray from the recipe to create something that suits your taste perfectly.

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