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How To Make a Proper Moscow Mule

moscow mule copper mug lime
Wine Dharma

You know you’ve made it as a cocktail when one of the most popular ready-to-drink options is made in your name. That’s the case with the Moscow Mule, the classic mix of vodka and ginger beer, preferably in a copper mug.

A few pro tips to keep in mind. First, select a quality vodka. The flavor may be mostly buried in the rest of the drink but you’re still after smoothness. In terms of ginger, go with a proper ginger beer instead of ginger ale. The latter is soda and far too sweet. If you’re really feeling intrepid, do as Death & Co. does below and make your own ginger syrup to couple with club soda. You’ll be amazed at how much more pronounced the ginger qualities are when going this route.

Why the copper mug? Obviously, they look great. But there’s more. The metal insulates extremely well, keeping the drink colder for much longer than most other materials. But do exercise some caution here as there’s some chemistry at play that could be potentially harmful. Make certain that your mugs are lined with a sturdy protective layer. The acid from the drink (mostly by way of lime) can actually corrode the metallic lining of the vessel and contaminate the drink. Copper poisoning is no fun.

As you look to improve your Mule game, look to the three top-notch recipes, below.

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Moscow Mule Cocktail Recipe

Moscow mule drinks in ceramic mugs garnished with lime and mint.

This Tristan Stephenson recipe is pretty classic, with the addition of gomme to give it a little hint of acacia. There’s lots of nuance at place and the higher-end vodka really elevates the drink.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Smirnoff Black Vodka
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 oz gomme
  • 3.5 oz ginger beer
  • fresh mint for garnish

Method:

Build the drink straight into a copper mug with cubed ice and garnish with sprig of mint.

Icelandic Mule Recipe

Icelandic Mule Cocktail on a table.

This recipe from Reyka drinks ambassador Trevor Schneider involves the Icelandic vodka and ginger beer. He is particularly drawn to ginger beers by Q Drinks or Fever Tree, if you’re wondering which way to go.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 parts Reyka Vodka
  • .25 part lime juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • top with ginger beer

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker except ginger bear.
  • Shake and strain and top with ginger beer.

Death & Co. Moscow Mule Recipe

Moscow mule drink with ginger candy and lime and straw on white backgrund.

Fans of ginger will love this recipe from the David Kaplan camp. Enjoy it on its own or try it with some sushi or a spicy Thai curry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Charbay Vodka
  • .5 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz ginger syrup*
  • club soda
  • lime wheel and candied ginger flag for garnish

*Ginger Syrup: Make 1/2 cup of fresh ginger juice, wither by using a juice extractor or finely grating fresh ginger, wrapping it in a clean towel, and squeezing out the juice (24 ounces of ginger root should do the trick). Put the juice in blender, add 1 cup of superfine sugar, and blend until the sugar is dissolved. 

Method:

  • Short shake all ingredients except club soda with 3 ice cubes.
  • Strain into a highball glass filled with ice.
  • Top with club soda.
  • Garnish with lime wheel and candied ginger flag and serve with straw.

Where Did the Moscow Mule Come From?

The cocktail’s genesis story is an interesting one, apparently a cocktail in itself made of poor investments. Legend as it, some business folks were all meeting at a bar — one sitting on a bunch of vodka, one on a glut of ginger beer, another with copper mugs — and they tried mixing their products. They tied it all together with some lime and had a delicious beverage on their collective hands. As Tristan Stephenson indicates in The Curious Bartender, the drink pretty much green-lighted the vodka revolution (in fact, check out his cocktail book and give his fermented Mule recipe a try, it’s a dandy).

The Moscow Mule name, of course, is a reference to the birthplace of vodka. Where it actually was first made is up for debate (experts think NYC or LA), but it took place in the early 1940s. In the early days of cocktail culture, there simply weren’t many vodka-centric drinks. By the 80s, as Stephenson says, the stuff was flowing in every bar in town. It’s no wonder the drink took off. It’s incredibly refreshing, with the alcohol not so much imparting any flavor and melding the ingredients. In that sense, it’s about as welcoming a cocktail as there ever was.

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