The History of the Moscow Mule and the Copper Mug

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It all started in 1939 when John G. Martin bought the U.S. rights to the Smirnoff brand, determined to make Americans fall in love with vodka, but it wasn’t that easy. Americans joked that vodka was Russian for “horrible” and sales for Martin were very slow. Martin’s colleague, Jack Morgan was the owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. He was having a similar problem trying to sell his house made ginger beer. Having drinks one day at the Cock ‘n’ Bull, the men decided to combine the vodka and ginger beer for the first time. Martin called this a stroke of “inventive genius.”

Sophie Berezinski was the 3rd person to come on the scene. She had immigrated to the United States from Russia, carrying 2,000 solid copper mugs that she had made with her father. They had trouble selling the mugs in Russia, so she made the journey to America, the land of opportunity to peddle them door to door in search of a restaurant or lounge interested in them. However, after some time, the mugs seemed destined for the trash in America too, until she met Martin and Jack at the Cock ‘n’ Bull. This new mug was the perfect signature to their new drink. It was pretty and shiny (which Hollywood loved) and the copper does a great job of preserving true flavors and keeping the drink cold.

Once they had the Moscow Mule perfected, Martin bought one of the first Polaroid cameras and went on the road to promote it by taking photos of bartenders or Hollywood stars posing with the iconic copper mug and a bottle of Smirnoff. The photos got around and soon bars were jumping on board to make the Mule. By 1950, the Smirnoff sales had more than tripled.

Then the Red Scare of the 1950s happened and people started boycotting both Smirnoff and the Mule, calling it un-American due to it’s Russian roots. Walter Winchell, a journalist, defended it in 1951, saying, “The Moscow Mule is US-made, so don’t be political when you’re thirsty.” But the damage had already been done. The Mules popularity continued to decline into the 1960s, but has recently made a comeback as people have rediscovered its subtle bite and refreshing flavor, perfect for summer. Oprah Winfrey included a Moscow Mule kit in her Favorite Things show in 2012, giving the drink a new boost of vitality.

So why is it called a Moscow Mule? It is assumed, but not known for sure, that the Moscow part of the name was derived from vodkas Russian roots and the Mule part was because the ginger beer gives such a kick of flavor, either way it is a fun refreshing cocktail for the summer and let’s be honest, those mugs really do make the drink. Check out my review of the 100% pure copper mug and shot glass HERE.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 Lime
  • 2 oz. of Vodka
  • 4-6 oz. of chilled Ginger Beer
  • (Optional) 1 tsp. simple sugar syrup
  • (Optional) Sprig of mint for garnish

Instructions

  1. Squeeze lime into copper mug and drop in.
  2. Add 4-5 cubes of ice cubes.
  3. Add ginger beer, sugar syrup and vodka.
  4. Stir and garnish with an extra lime or sprig of mint.
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