Smirnoff Moscow Mule

By: Pratishruti Ganguly

Smirnoff Moscow Mule recipe

Moscow Mule is rightly often dubbed as a party in a copper mug — with vodka, ginger beer, and a splash of citrus. Legend has it that the drink was concocted in 1940, not in Moscow, but in the heart of West Hollywood at the Cock 'n Bull, a popular English pub and a celebrity haunt in Los Angeles. The sole Russian connection in the Moscow Mule's origin story is Sophie Berezinski, a Russian-American immigrant, who crafted the original design for the iconic mule mug in her father's copper factory. 

The drink is the brainchild of two beverage business mavericks facing tough times. John G. Martin, representing the modest Smirnoff, and Jack Morgan, the owner of the Cock'n Bull pub with his own line of ginger beer, found themselves struggling to quench the thirst for their respective drinks in a challenging market.

Before 1940, vodka was a mere blip in the US liquor scene, constituting less than 1 percent of consumption, mostly among Eastern European immigrants. The Moscow Mule dramatically changed the game. Smirnoff claims that the drink’s sudden popularity propelled vodka to become one of the highest-selling alcoholic beverages in the world. 

Founded by the Smirnov family in Moscow in the 1860s, Smirnoff struggled to make a mark in Europe after the Russian Revolution. Its U.S. rights were eventually sold to Rudolph Kunett, who, in 1938, sold the licence to John Martin at Heublein for $14,000 at the time. 

The Moscow Mule emerged on the scene in Los Angeles around 1941 during World War II. However, the key players—vodka and ginger beer—initially faced rejection from the American public. In an era dominated by brown spirits like whiskey, cognac, and brandy, vodka struggled for recognition. Similarly, while Ginger Ale had already woven itself into American culture, its spicier cousin, Ginger Beer, lagged behind. 

Bartender Wes Price, present during the brainstorming, claimed the Moscow Mule's inception was, in part, an effort to clear out the bar's basement—stocked with excess ginger beer and vodka.

Instead of going with the straightforward "Vodka Buck," Martin and Morgan opted for the more intriguing "Moscow Mule" for their cocktail, a mix of liquor, ginger beer or ginger ale, and citrus juice. It was served in mugs, supplied by Sophie Berezinski, who went from door to door in 1940 LA to clear out the stash of surplus Russian-imported copper mugs in her apartment stash.

Once the ingredients were finalised, Price tested the concoction on bar regulars, including actor Broderick Crawford and adventure-film star Rod Cameron. The Moscow Mule spread like wildfire.

The impact was substantial. Vodka sales, led by Smirnoff, soared to 200,000 cases annually, while Cock 'n Bull ginger beer achieved national brand status. Morgan raked in profits from selling ginger beer and copper mugs. The Moscow Mule had become a sensation.

Its journey to stardom, though, encountered numerous hurdles, most notably during the Cold War. The cocktail, symbolising Russian culture, found itself at the centre of attempts to vilify the beverage during this tense period.

But what's the secret behind its allure? According to mixologists, when lime and ginger beer collide in that distinctive copper mug, a chemical reaction unfolds, intensifying the lime's acidity and the ginger beer's carbonation. It's not just a cocktail; it's a sip of scientific magic!

Ingredients

  • Smirnoff Vodka - 60ml
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  • Lime juice - 15ml
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  • Ginger Beer - 180ml
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Method

Pour Smirnoff vodka and lime juice in a copper mug.

Fill the mug with ice.

Top up with the ginger beer and stir it well.

Smirnoff Moscow Mule

Mixologist: Pratishruti Ganguly

Ingredients

Method

Pour Smirnoff vodka and lime juice in a copper mug.

Fill the mug with ice.

Top up with the ginger beer and stir it well.

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Smirnoff Moscow Mule