So, you’ve seen your friends drinking out of that iconic, copper mug with a sprig of mint sticking out the top and you want to know what it’s all about?
Of course, it’s the classic Moscow Mule cocktail!
Having a rapid increase in popularity at the moment, maybe because the drink holds up to 18 ounces so there are fewer refills, maybe because the copper mugs are just an Instagrammer’s dream, the Moscow Mule is one of the simpler cocktails to make – so there’s no excuse for looking past this one.
If that sounds like your cup of tea (or mug of mule) then let’s get right into what’s in a Moscow Mule and how to make one!
What’s in a Moscow Mule? The Classic Moscow Mule Ingredients
The Moscow Mule is a super simple cocktail, containing just 3 ingredients.
Created in 1941 after a chance meeting between a Russian immigrant who sold copper mugs, the founder of the Smirnoff distillery who wasn’t selling enough vodka, and a local ginger beer tycoon.
And so, in the Cock n Bull pub on the sunset strip, the Moscow Mule was created. Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer.
It couldn’t be simpler. If you’re wondering what vodka to use, then Smirnoff will obviously keep the drink as authentic as possible.
If you want to play around with it though, you can use any good brand of vodka (avoid the bottom shelf stuff). You could even use Absolut Lime, to give that more intense citrus flavor to balance the ginger beer, if that’s your sort of thing of course.
How To Make a Moscow Mule in 3 Steps
Now we know what we need to make this wartime classic, let’s get stuck into the recipe. You’ll be blown away by how simple it really is:
1. The Base
Start by adding 1 ½ ounce of vodka and ½ ounce of lime juice straight to your copper mug. You don’t need to worry about chilling the mug as you do with most cocktail glasses, this one will be perfectly chilled by the time you come to drink it.
2. Fill with Ice
Easy enough, fill the mug with ice. If you can, try to use bigger ice cubes. The greater size means the ice cubes will melt slower, and therefore keep your drink colder for longer, and dilute it less. It’s a win-win.
3. Top and Garnish
Top the mug up with ginger beer and give it a little stir with your bar spoon or copper straw. We’re going to garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint to give the drink that last touch of refreshingness and that bit of extra flavor.
Popular Moscow Mule Variations
As with any popular cocktail, the Moscow Mule has seen its fair share of new takes and different riffs. We’ll go through a few of the best ones now:
1. Mexican Mule
As expected with any vodka-based cocktail, the easiest way to switch it up is to change out the base.
Vodka has quite a neutral flavor and so substituting it will rarely ruin a cocktail.
If you hadn’t already guessed, the Mexican Mule switches the vodka in a Moscow Mule for tequila, giving the drink a much harder bite as the spiciness of the ginger beer, zestiness of the lime and strong punch of the agave combine for a real burst of flavor in your mouth.
One for any Moscow Mule or tequila lovers to try!
2. Gin Gin Mule
Switching between gin and vodka in a cocktail is nothing new. Martinis are probably the oldest and most famous example (don’t worry, I’m not about to try and invent a ‘Vesper Mule’) but it happens all over the cocktail world.
So it should be no surprise the Moscow Mule is no different. If you’re a gin lover, play around with gins on this one. Gin has a much more diverse flavor range than vodka, owing to its infusion with botanicals.
3. Kentucky Mule:
Sticking with the theme of switching out the base spirit we have the Kentucky (and Irish) Mule.
Using Bourbon as the base of your Mule is going to give a totally different flavor, bringing a taste of the midwest into your copper mug.
Whiskey and ginger beer is hardly a new combination but squeezing in that ½ ounce of lime juice and serving in a copper mug makes this drink feel fresh and exciting, and it’s absolutely perfect on those hot days where whiskey neat doesn’t cut it quite the same as a bubbly refresher.
If you want to make an Irish Mule, just use Irish Whiskey like Jameson.
4. Dark and Stormy
Easily confused with a Rum Mule, this is actually not as simple as switching out the vodka in a Moscow Mule.
The Dark and Stormy is still garnished with a lime wedge, but skips the lime juice, and is served in a highball glass instead of a copper mug. It’s a rich drink, and the dark rum’s heavy flavors and sweet, vanilla notes mean you won’t miss the lime juice.
The spicy ginger beer adds an exciting profile that’ll keep you on this drink from the first sip.
5. Apple Cider Mule
Mules are great in the summer sunshine.
Perfectly refreshing and chilled, cooling you down whether you’re sitting on the porch, in a beer garden, or just in your kitchen.
But what if you want to enjoy the mule in other seasons, such as the fall?
Well, then an Apple Cider Mule is perfect for you! Make your Moscow Mule as normal, until the final step.
Then top half with ginger beer and half with apple cider. For added fall and winter flavor, garnish with a cinnamon stick alongside the lime wedge, instead of a mint sprig.
6. Glasgow Mule
I know what you’re thinking by now: ‘Easy, just swap the vodka for scotch and we’re good to go.’ Well, not quite. A Glasgow Mule has a final, secret ingredient that sets it apart from all the other Mules: St Germain Liqueur.
When balancing with the elderflower of the St Germain, avoid a peaty or smokey scotch like a Jura and instead go for something much smoother, such as those from the Lowland region.
You’ll have a sweeter, slightly botanical flavor with the Glasgow Mule, but without losing the spice of the ginger beer. It’s a truly interesting combination and warrants a try.
Why Are Moscow Mules Served in Copper Mugs?
As we talked about earlier, the drink was created by a Russian immigrant selling copper mugs. But it’s not just a quick trip down memory lane.
Copper is the perfect material to conduct the cold temperature of the drink and keep it nice and chilled. This keeps the drink refreshing but also stops the ice from melting and diluting your drink.
Cold copper also seems to intensify the fizziness of carbonated drinks, giving your Moscow Mule that bubbly pop when you add in the ginger beer.
In reality, it just doesn’t feel the same if you’re served a Moscow Mule in a glass. Something is satisfying about feeling the weight of the copper mug when you hold the handle that just cannot be replicated without.
What Ginger Beer To Use in a Moscow Mule?
The choice of ginger beers on the market is almost frightening.
But to keep it simple, Old Jamaica is going to be the best all-rounder and easily available ginger beer on the market.
Fentimans offers a spicier, more herbal taste due to the complex brewing process while Fevertree will give a classy, not too bubbly experience and will pair nicely with whatever vodka or another spirit base you decide to use.
The best thing to do is to experiment, find your favorite ginger beer to make Mules with, and use it, make the recipe your own so that your friends are always coming back for your Mules, not the ones at the bar in town.
Don’t Look Like a (Copper) Mug!
So there it is, the simplest and easiest-to-follow recipe for a Moscow Mule and some killer variations to keep the drink fresh, fun, and exciting. There’s only one thing you’re missing now: the copper mug.
But don’t worry, we have you covered with our Best Copper Mugs for a Moscow Mule blog. Check it out and dive headfirst into the best copper mugs on a budget, as a set, or even ones with custom engraving.
Then you’ll be all ready to go and make Moscow Mules to your heart’s content!
I started bartending in 2017, just 4 days after my 18th birthday, at a cocktail bar in my hometown. I immediately fell in love with the art and science of mixology and have since worked in bars across Yarm, York and Liverpool in England.