Serious Eats: Recipes

Time for a Drink: the Moscow Mule

[Photograph: Paul Clarke]

Vodka may be the most prominent single spirit on the back bar today, but in the 1940s, it was a very different situation.

The story goes that in 1941, in an effort to market the then-exotic Russian spirit, executives from Heublein—then owners of Smirnoff vodka—collaborated with the owner of the Cock 'n Bull Tavern in Hollywood to create this simple, memorable drink composed of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, served over ice in a copper mug. Wildly popular among the movie crowd in Los Angeles, the Moscow Mule caught on elsewhere and for a brief while was one of the most popular drinks of the era.

Though its moment in the spotlight may have been short, the Moscow Mule had one lingering effect: it introduced countless drinkers to the vodka experience, and set a series of changes in motion that, several decades later, would take the spirit to the top of the sales charts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, I'm not really much of a vodka drinker, but I make the occasional exception for the Moscow Mule. Crisp and refreshing, and cooling on a warm summer evening, the Moscow Mule is a vodka drink that can appeal to vodkaphobes, and one of the few classic cocktails that can satisfy vodka drinkers who'll touch nothing but.

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