The Complete Guide To The Moscow Mule

The Complete Guide To The Moscow Mule

Any lover of cocktails will know that the true test of a good cocktail isn’t just about how you mix the ingredients together and get the right ratio of this versus that, but it’s about a drink with history and one that’s presented just as beautifully as its made.

The Moscow Mule is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous cocktails because of these reasons, with rich origins and a great backstory that brought it the fame it has today.

In addition to this rich history, the Moscow Mule is served up in an authentic copper mug which gives the drink a whole range of benefits that you might not find elsewhere, say if you served it in a martini glass, for example.

Coctail In Martini Glass

The copper mug itself has become famous in its own right thanks to this refreshing drink, and the two work together to create something that all cocktail lovers enjoy.

There is so much thought that has to go into making one of these cocktails, and it’s not just about getting the right types of alcohol and mixers to go inside, but also about choosing the right copper mug and knowing how to care for it.

This guide can answer all of your questions about the world famous drink and show you exactly why it needs to be served up in a copper mug.

Whether you’re a long time lover of Moscow Mules or are looking to add something refreshing and exotic to the cocktail menu of your home bar, this is a drink that satisfies all tastes and styles. It’s rare to find a cocktail that has this much history and beauty with how its served, which all lead to its hugely popular following all around the world.

What Is A Moscow Mule?

A Moscow Mule is a simple cocktail with just a few ingredients including ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice. Some say that ginger ale will also suffice, however, to get the original taste then ginger beer is best, and due to its origins, there are many who believe you should only make them with Smirnoff vodka in order to keep it just as it was designed.

Although the name indicates its from Moscow, don’t let that fool you. The Moscow Mule is actually an American cocktail and will easily top the list of the world’s most popular drinks if you ever take a look.

Coctail Ingredients

There are slight variations found around the world and some people like to alter the ratio of ingredients to suit their own taste, however, the most important thing is that it’s always served in an old-fashioned looking copper mug.

These cocktails have a light and refreshing taste and are always lovingly poured into a copper mug due to the natural cooling benefits it has, among other things. The history of the Moscow Mule is one of personality and with a great back story, all leading to the modern day popularity of the cocktail today.

The History Of The Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is one of those cocktails that has more personality than the rest, and many people already know the story behind the famous drink even if they’ve never tried one before.

As copper had always been a popular choice for drinking vessel material dating back thousands of years to ancient Ireland and the Yogis of India it should be no surprise that its popularity and practicality continued to grow.

According to the historians, American colonists were drinking from copper mugs during the 1600s, and then the trend of this continued when the Moscow Mule was invented on a fateful day in 1941.

Legend has it that the Moscow Mule was invented when John Martin, president of an East Coast food and liquor distributor, bought a smalltime vodka distillery to try and market it as the next big thing. This small vodka distillery was actually Smirnoff, known today as one of the world’s leading vodka brands.

As nobody during these times actually drank vodka or had even really heard of it, John was struggling with how to market the drink. During a visit to his friend Jack Morgan’s bar, the Cock ‘n Bull, Martin complained that he couldn’t manage to offload his vodka. Jack Morgan brewed his own ginger beer and chimed in with how he had cases downstairs that he wasn’t able to sell either.

A third person in the bar happened to be having her own struggles, Sophie Berezinski, who had traveled to America from Russia where her father was head of the Moscow Copper Co. and was desperately trying to sell 2,000 copper mugs that she had in her possession.

Moscow Copper Co Logo

Her timing couldn’t have been better as the three of them all presented their problems in the same bar and came to the quick realization that by mixing all three together and adding in a dash of lime they would be able to create an innovative new drink that took care of all of their problems.

Martin used his connections to market the drink, named the Smirnoff Mule, featuring copper mugs with the image of a kicking mule stamped on the bottom. By the 1950s and 1960s, the drink was being ordered in bars across America and it was a particularly big hit with the Hollywood scene which helped to catapult it to worldwide fame.

Popular Moscow Mule Variations

The original Moscow Mule recipe calls for two ounces of vodka, four ounces of ginger beer and a dash of lime juice, and that’s how many people know and love this famous cocktail. However, thanks to the experimentation and ingenuity of some cocktail aficionados, there are also plenty of great variations available that you can try out with your copper mug to experience a whole range of flavors.

Kentucky Mule

This variation has been made popular in the South with the huge difference being the mixer spirit. The Kentucky mule uses bourbon in place of the vodka, with all other ingredients and ratios staying the same. Because the bourbon has a little more spice in it it’s best to go for an even spicier ginger beer to truly get a good complement with the fresh lime.

Mexican Mule

The version of the Moscow Mule has been particularly popular down South of the border, and it turns this classic into a great alternative for the margarita. A Mexican mule is made with top quality tequila instead of vodka and all other ingredients the same. It’s always best to use fresh lime for your mules, regardless of the taste, as the bottled type just doesn’t give it the same pinch of sour.

Garden Mule

While most variations of the Moscow Mule just changed up the spirits, this one does a whole lot more. The Garden Mule is made with the same regular recipe that we know and love with the addition of some fresh ingredients from the garden.

Garden Mule

Add fresh blueberries and cucumber to the mix and top it off with a sprig of fresh mint once you’ve squeezed the lime in, and you’ll be transported to a tropical and refreshing getaway.

Why Do You Use A Copper Mug For A Moscow Mule?

Regardless of which of these recipes you want to use or whether you want to stick to the standard Moscow Mule ingredients, it’s essential that you use a copper mug to serve it up in.

This is something that newcomers to the drink often wonder and query if they can serve it up in a standard highball glass or martini glass and have it taste just the same, and the truth is it just can’t compare. Here are a few benefits you’ll get from using an authentic copper mug to serve your Moscow Mule:


There’s nothing cooler than having a Moscow Mule copper mug sitting in your home bar, and even better when you can invest in a set. These look authentic with their shiny and hammered surface, and even the cheaper brands still look exactly like the real deal from back in the 1940s.

Keeps It Cool

Copper has always been known for its coolness, and that’s exactly why it’s been used a drink server for thousands of years. The scientific benefits of using a copper mug for your Moscow Mule is that the material reacts with the temperature of the liquid inside to match it, meaning your drink won’t go warm for hours.


Ask anyone who knows and loves this cocktail and they’ll tell you that the taste is only made better by drinking from a copper mug. The copper is believed to react with the liquid when it oxidizes the vodka, and when compared to something like glass or plastic, the taste that you get in this cocktail just can’t be beaten.


Copper was originally used to serve drinks in due to its durability and longevity, and that’s exactly what the material still offers. These pure copper mugs need to be cared for correctly which can be time-consuming, but you’ll be rewarded with a cup that can literally last the rest of your life and will never lose its color or shine.

Holding Moscow Mule Mug


Anyone who’s ever tried to sip delicately on a martini glass or wine flute before will know just how tricky it can be, especially after one or two drinks. Copper is naturally pretty heavy duty and with the larger mug style and handle in your hands you’ll feel a lot more comfortable drinking, even if it does weigh a little more than your regular barware.  


What better reason to enjoy a Moscow Mule in a copper mug than giving a nod to tradition, as that’s why many people refuse to ever drink them any other way. Moscow Mules were invented specifically with this type of mug in mind and to drink it any other way is like changing one of the ingredients and expecting it to be the same thing.

Moscow Mule Ingredients And Must-Haves

The Moscow Mule is a cocktail with quite a lot of rules, and that’s probably already evident due to the way it has to be served in a copper mug. Here are something things that you must do if you want an authentic Moscow Mule experience and want to stick to the original recipe when you’re serving your guests.

Always ensure you use freshly squeezed lime when making this drink, as the store bought and bottled variety just isn’t the same thing. Some people even like to leave a wedge of lime inside so that the flavor just keeps giving.

Although some people believe ginger ale is a good alternative, the first and original Moscow Mule was made with a spicy ginger beer. Ginger beer is generally more refreshing but with the spiciness that this cocktail calls for, so you should never try to substitute with anything else.

Smirnoff vodka is recommended as the vodka of choice if you’re really trying to go for the authentic taste. The company even released their own Moscow Mule mixer many years ago, however it’s perfectly fine to use their standard types of vodka to create your cocktail.

The ice also plays a big role in how you enjoy this drink, but there are no hard and fast rules about what type is best. Crushed ice and cubed ice are both good choices for this cocktail, but if you prefer no ice at all then your copper mug will be more than capable of keeping the drink icy cold.

Moscow Mule Ingredients

Always stir the cocktail, and any other that you create, with a specific cocktail stirrer and never a spoon. It will ensure that the drink is mixed to perfection and also prevent any scratches or dents occurring inside your favorite copper mug.

How To Keep Your Copper Mug Clean

Due to the popularity of the Moscow Mule mug, many makers of these pieces of barware now come with their own instructions, and some even with cleaning supplies, so that you can give it the love and care it deserves.

Although copper is durable, it can be sensitive to common cleaning agents and acidic things, so you need to ensure you’re cleaning it correctly. Here are some steps to follow if your copper mugs don’t come with their own instructions.

  • Put some mild dish soap onto a sponge and gently clean the inside and outside of the copper mug
  • Run the mugs under lukewarm water sufficiently to ensure that all traces of the dish soap have been removed
  • Dry each mug carefully with a cotton cloth and then make it a point to go back over each one and dry them again with a new, dry cotton cloth. Copper will quickly darken and rust when in contact with water, so you need to double dry them every time
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    Keep your copper mugs stored out of humidity and sunlight as this can damage them, and they’ll be ready to impress at your next get together

One thing that many people will lament is that they can’t wash their mugs in a dishwasher, which can be particularly annoying especially after a big party. However, investing in these mugs means you’re responsible for caring for them, so you need to be committed to hand washing and occasionally shining them if you want the very best tasting Moscow Mules.

Easy Steps For Making Your Copper Mugs Shine

In addition to regular cleaning whenever you use your copper mugs, you might notice that after some time these unique pieces of drinkware tend to lose their shine. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to restore this shine and none of it involves harsh chemicals. All you’ll need is a lemon and salt, and a little bit of arm power.

Waxing Mug With Lemon

Take half a lemon and dip it in fine salt crystals, then polish the copper mug using this lemon for a few minutes on each mug. Once the mug starts to shine again, you can rinse off the lemon and salt and be sure to dry them thoroughly using a cotton cloth. If copper is left with any liquid on its surface then it will oxidize and quickly rust or darken the copper.

This is a simple enough task to do once a month or before a big party, depending on how often you use your mugs and how much of their shine they’ve lost. Pure copper mugs will usually not fade as quickly as those lined or plated, so it pays to do your research when investing in your own.

The Ultimate Moscow Mule Recipe

Although the origins of the Moscow Mule are clear, people still argue today about how to make the most genuine and ultimate Moscow Mule. This cocktail is known as refreshing and spicy so to get the perfect mix you really need to know how to do it right, otherwise, it can end in complete disaster and some unhappy guests at your home bar.

To begin, you’ll need a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, a cocktail jigger, cocktail shaker, pure copper mug, crushed ice, a lime, and a bottle of fresh ginger beer. There can be some slight variations with the brands used for your ginger beer and vodka, however, even the smallest change can have a huge impact on the end result.

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    Fill the cocktail shaker about three quarters of the way with crushed ice
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    Pour the vodka in and squeeze about half an ounce of juice from the lime, throwing out the leftovers
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    Place the lid on and shake the cocktail shaker for about 15 seconds or until it has cooled down somewhat
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    Fill a copper mug with crushed ice also and then strain the drink into the mug
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    Garnish the top of the drink with a fresh lime wedge and enjoy

Some people like to drink theirs from a straw where others like the icy chill that the copper mug gives their lips. However you like to sip on yours doesn’t matter, so long as you’re serving it up in an authentic copper mug.

Finding The Mug To Match The Cocktail

It’s rare to find a drink with such a detailed history and exciting origin story as this, and even rarer to find one with specific instructions about how not only you make it but serve it as well. The Moscow Mule will always be one of the world’s most refreshing and interesting cocktails, and it’s all helped by the stunning copper mug that gives it so many of its benefits.

Toasting With Moscow Mule

There’s no doubt that the Moscow Mule is one of the most unique cocktails in the world, rich with its own history and spin-offs that please cocktail lovers of all backgrounds and tastes. Although it’s important to get the ingredients right and have a good recipe up your sleeve, nothing is more important than having the right copper mug with which to serve it in.

With so many brands now making barware and people creating Moscow Mule mugs without the care they deserve, it can be hard to source a copper mug that’s actually worth purchasing. If you’re someone with a home bar or you just like entertaining guest with the finest products, your search for the right Moscow Mule mug might have been a long one.

Because these drinks require such a specialized type of glass to enjoy, just as you’d find with other cocktails like martinis, there’s no substitution for quality and you really do need to find the best. To get yourself the finest set of Moscow Mule mugs you can check out our buying guide that shows you exactly what to look for and the top picks we’ve found for this very niche serving mug.

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