My brother-in-law is either way behind the times, or way ahead. It was kind of embarrassing actually. There we were on a glorious European cruise, enjoying the elegant, historical, architecture of ancient worlds slowly passing us by, when we all (the usual quartet – my sister, her husband, my hubby and me) decided it was time for a cocktail – a Malbec for me, Cab for my sister, my hubby got his fave – Boddingtons beer. Next it was my brother-in-law’s turn. We could all see he was deep in thought (studying every bottle, can, and tap the ship offered, drumming his fingertips on the bar counter, and rubbing his chin with the fingers of his other hand). We knew he would come up with a doozy. He did. He looked the bartender in the eye and asked for a Moscow Mule.
A whaaat? We looked at him like he had lost his marbles. Bartender #1 looked at him like he had lost his marbles, so he turned to bartender #2, who (you guessed it) also looked at him like he was nuts. What the heck is a Moscow Mule? We all wanted to know. The harder my brother-in-law tried to explain it to the bartenders, the more confused they got (especially when he started explaining the need for a copper mug to make a real Moscow Mule). Well, he didn’t get his copper mug. But I’m pretty sure between all of the bartenders and my brother-in-law, they managed to come pretty close to a traditional Moscow Mule.
So, what is it? In short – it’s vodka, ginger beer, a little simple syrup, a hint of lime and a sprig of mint, served in a chilled very cool looking copper mug. But the story behind it is actually more interesting. Legend has it that back in the late 1930s, an American businessman named John Martin met a nearly broke Russian expat who had just moved to the U.S. The only thing the Russian had to his name was the U.S. rights to Smirnoff Vodka, but no one was buying any so he was desperate to sell. John Martin jumped on it and purchased Smirnoff for the U.S. Not long after that, though, Martin realized the same thing… no one was buying vodka. He was drowning his sorrows with a buddy of his, Jack Morgan, who owned the famous Hollywood Cock-n-Bull bar. Morgan had a similar problem – he had truckloads of his own specially brewed ginger beer that he couldn’t unload either. At a nearby bar stool sat a lonely man who had produced copper mugs that just sat on the shelves in his store. With all three of them complaining, the head Cock-n-Bull bartender came up with the idea to mix all three “loser” products to come up with a winner. And so the Moscow Mule was born!
The Moscow Mule became insanely popular in the 1940s when the Hollywood stars all started drinking it. It was the high end drink of the rich and famous for two decades. But, as often happens, other drinks (martinis, etc.) began to curry favor with the hoity toities, and the Moscow Mule all but vanished. Well, as also often happens, fast forward half a century and the Moscow Mule is now making a comeback. It’s a clean, refreshing alternative to today’s often a-bit-too-sweet, fancy schmancy cocktails. Today’s version is nearly identical to the original (although today’s sometimes muddles the mint, whereas the original didn’t). Everyone swears the copper mug makes all the difference! Try it yourself to decide. And don’t forget to let me know in the comments below – is the copper mug essential for a real Moscow Mule?
It turns out that in the few months following that cruise, I saw copper mugs and Moscow Mules everywhere! (It was even offered on our flight to Chicago last month! No kidding!) I’m guessing that when my brother-in-law orders one on our next cruise, the bartenders will smile, whip out the Smirnoff and ginger beer and serve it up in a copper mug! I’ll let you know…