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What Is a Moscow Mule?

Vodka is one component of a Moscow mule.
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  • Written By: Janis Bennett
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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A Moscow mule is a beverage that is made with ginger beer, vodka and lime and that usually is served in a copper mug. The cocktail is garnished with a lime wedge, and it sometimes sports a sprig of mint. The beverage’s name comes from the perception that vodka is a Russian beverage, hence the name "Moscow," and from the intense ginger beer flavor that gives it a kick, hence the name "mule." This alcoholic beverage helped spark a huge rise in the popularity of vodka during the 1950s in the United States.

The precise origin of the Moscow mule is unknown, but it is believed to have been invented by John Martin, Jack Morgan and Rudolph Kunett in 1941. As the story goes, the trio of friends was at a Los Angeles bar called the Cock ‘n’ Bull for dinner and drinks one night in 1941. Martin had recently purchased a recipe for his vodka company, Morgan owned the Cock ‘n’ Bull and had recently made some ginger beer that wasn’t selling well, and Kunett had just inherited a large collection of copper mugs. Wondering what a shot of John’s vodka mixed with Jack’s ginger beer would taste like in a copper mug, the trio decided to try their concoction. They liked what they tasted.

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The Moscow mule earned its place in United States society in 1943 when it hit Los Angeles’ bars and celebrities had their taste of this new concoction. It became one of the most popular mixed drinks of its time. As the 1950s rolled in, society was on the lookout for an alternative to gin. Cocktails with vodka became very popular, which once again lifted the Moscow mule to popularity.

As popular as this drink was the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s, with celebrities promoting the cocktail and it having a place as one of the most popular drinks of the time, the Moscow mule has become practically extinct. Ginger beer is not as easily accessible as it once was, but savvy consumers can find this beverage at many health food stores and specialty shops, and copper mugs can be found at online retailers. Bars or restaurants also might carry the ingredients to make this cocktail, but it typically no longer graces the drink menu.

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