History of the Moscow Mule

April 30, 2009 at 9:52 pm 1 comment

Moscow Mule top_moscow_mule1
– 1 1/4 oz Smirnoff vodka
– 3 oz. ginger beer
– 1 tsp. sugar syrup
– 1/4 oz. lime juice
– 1 sprig mint
– 1 slice lime

In a copper mug, pour vodka over ice. Add sugar syrup and lime juice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with mint sprig and lime slice.

History of Moscow Mule:
The story of the Moscow Mule begins in 1939 when a nearly brokeRussian ex-pat, Rudolph Kunett, sold the Smirnoff brand to John Martin, head of G.F. Heublein & Bros.  Eventually John Martin used the Moscow Mule to help promote vodka to bars across the US and this helped fuel the mainstream acceptance of vodka as the preferred white spirit, replacing gin. 

John Martin long claimed that he invented the Moscow Mule along with his friend, Jack Morgan, owner of the olde-English style pub named the Cock’n’Bull, located on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.  The Cock’n’Bull had a house brand of ginger beer bottled in stoneware crocks.  Martin and Moran claimed that a fit of “inventive genius” led them to combine their respective products.  More likely, is the story told by Morgan’s head bartender, Wes Price, who maintained that the drink was fashioned sometime in 1941 in an effort to offload otherwise unsellable goods.

They ordered specially engraved copper mugs and Martin set off to market it in the bars around the country. He bought one of the first Polaroid cameras and asked barmen to pose with a Moscow Mule copper mug and a bottle of Smirnoff vodka. Then he would leave one copy of the photo at the bar and take a second copy to the bar next door to show them that their competitors were selling their concoction. Between 1947 and 1950, thanks to their invention, Smirnoff vodka case columns more than tripled and nearly doubled in 1951.

In particular, the drink caught on with the Hollywood crowd until 1950 when not unlike a few Hollywood screenwriters, Smirnoff and its flagship drink, the Moscow Mule, took heat for the Russian association.  Assuming that Smirnoff was a Russian import, unionized bartenders in New York announced a Moscow Mule boycott, refusing to “shove slave labor liquor across the wood in any American saloon.” 

Smirnoff rushed to testify that its vodka was not, and never had been a member of the Communist Party.  In support, Walter Winchell wrote in 1951, “The Moscow Mule is US made, so don’t be political when you’re thirsty.  Three are enough, however, to make you wanna fight pro-Communists.” 

Sadly, popularity of the beverage faded in the 1960s with the era of the groovy new disco scene and the intitaitive by the Smirnoff marketing department to re-name the drink the “Smirnoff Mule.”  However, the Moscow Mule has recently enjoyed a resurgence, mostly at upscale establishments that have taken the trouble to acquire the copper mugs for proper presentation.


Entry filed under: Drink Recipies, Historical Articles.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. The Nadas  |  May 5, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Great bit of history. Thanks for sharing. I prefer the Carroll County Mule. Copper Mug, Ice, Templeton Rye, Ginger Beer, Cherry, grenadine. Try it the next time you get your hands on some of the good stuff.


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