Summertime weather has kicked into high gear much earlier than usual in the greater Los Angeles area and it’s hot as we write these words at Drink of the Week Central. So, it’s as good a time as any to celebrate an appropriately cold and refreshing, and actually perfectly delightful, semi-classic cocktail that was invented in New York but popularized in what is now incorporated West Hollywood. Moreover, while the name of this drink might have once hinted at anti-capitalist subversion, this is one beverage with a history that any U.S. captain of industry or Russian oligarch can appreciate.
The Moscow Mule was developed by East-coast based Smirnoff manufacturer Heublein in the 1940s to help popularize vodka, then a poor seller in the U.S. market. The new drink hit it big, however, with the movie-star heavy clientele at the Cock ‘n Bull pub on the Sunset Strip. The pub’s owner, it turns out, also was the president of Cock ‘n Bull Products, which manufactured the drink’s other main ingredient, ginger beer. Since cocktails made with ginger beer or ginger ale were commonly called “bucks” or “mules” and Smirnoff was a Russian-derived vodka, the name must have been easy enough to invent.
Here’s the recipe:
The Moscow Mule
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 spent lime wedge (garnish)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Approx. 3 ounces ginger beer
1 dash Angostura bitters
Dissolve sugar in lime juice, bitters, and vodka. Add plentiful ice to Tom Collins glass or large metal mug. Top off with ginger beer. Throw in one of the lime wedges you used to produce the lime juice. Stir with a bar spoon or swizzle stick and toast the Cock ‘n Bull, which tragically closed down forever in 1987. (It’s now a car dealership.)
The above recipe is actually our distillation of a number of recipes we found online. So, be aware that it’s entirely okay to use an entire ounce of lime juice or up to three or four dashes of bitters, though that will add perhaps more piquancy than some might be prepared for while giving it the same pinkish hue as the picture we’re using this week. (If you’re big into bitters, Moscow mules have also been made with Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters.) You can also use the minimum amount of lime juice and dispense with the sugar and bitters entirely. Still, when all was said and done, the version above produced a really well-balanced beverage that a drinking newbie can easily love and cocktail connoisseur can, at the very least, respect.
Ginger beer, by the way, is fairly similar to ginger ale, just a little bit, or a lot, heavier on the ginger, depending on the brand. We haven’t tried it, but real cheapskates may consider experimenting with plain old Vernors or Canada Dry. Ginger beer can be more expensive than some brands of actual beer.