It must have been getting on 20 years ago when I first discovered how damn good the simple chemistry of vodka, lime and ginger beer could be. I had got hold of a simple book of cocktails by Dorling Kindersley when my wife was acting as an agent for them, and it included the Moscow Mule. I remember I drank almost nothing else for a month. I must have had a lot of ginger beer in.
The Moscow Mule owes its fame to one of the greatest guerrilla marketing stunts of all time. The drink was invented some time around 1941 in a British pub in Los Angeles known as the Cock ‘n’ Bull. Both bartender Wes Price, and marketing guru John G Martin claim to have invented the drink.
While the inventor is debated, the events that followed the creation of the Moscow Mule are the stuff of legend. in 1947, Martin was working for Heublein, which had the US marketing rights for Smirnoff. Martin’s friend Jack Morgan, who owned the Cock ‘n’ Bull had massively over bought ginger beer, and he and Price needed to get rid of it.
Martin got hold of one of the newly invented Polaroid instant cameras. He hit on a way of selling Smirnoff and shifting the oversupply of ginger beer by taking a photo of a barman holding a bottle of vodka in one hand, and a distinctive copper mug in the other. Martin would take two photos of the barman, giving one to his subject, and keeping one for himself. He would then move on to another bar, show the barman there the clutch of photos ‘proving’ how popular the Moscow Mule was, communicate the recipe, and take another pair of shots. Once done, Martin was off to the next bar to repeat his charade.
Price said of the episode:
“I just wanted to clean out the basement.”
Moscow Mules are usually served in the original copper mug. You can buy these online as unlined copper, and this is where the Good Old US of A runs into a brick wall in Red Square. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forbids the consumption of foods coming into contact with copper when the foodstuff has a pH less than 6.9. The lime in a Moscow Mule takes its pH well below 6.9, and this means that a legal US Moscow Mule has to be served either in glass or in a steel-lined copper mug. I presume that the FDA is assuming that some idiots may try to take their entire adult fluid requirement in Moscow Mules, which is right up there with that ‘coffee might be hot’ label on takeaway cups. Idiots.
The Nosey Chef has a pair of unlined copper mugs, and we drink by the idea that we make so many cocktails that we are unlikely to consume more than two Moscow Mules in any given year. Copper dose is low, so we use the unlined mugs. Pffft.
It’s hot in the UK right now, and I have just bought another load of ginger beer (although not as much as Jack Morgan), so maybe July will be another endless supply of Moscow Mules like the summer of 20 years thence.
The Cock ‘n’ Bull closed its doors in 1987.
Moscow MulePrint Recipe
- 45ml Russian Standard vodka
- 120 ml Old Jamaica ginger beer
- 5ml fresh lime juice
- Slice of lime, and a sprig of mint
Fill a copper mule mug with ice. Add all the ingredients and stir briefly.