Food & Drink

Why In The World Is It Called A Moscow Mule, Anyway?

The history behind this vodka drink.
11/21/2014 08:30am ET | Updated November 21, 2014
Moscow mule

There’s a lot of murkiness surrounding the origins of our favorite cocktails -- probably because booze are always involved, which has the tendency to make our memories foggy. But there are some stories that are generally held to be true, and that is the kind of story we’re going to be telling today about the Moscow Mule

The tale of the Moscow Mule is a pretty simple one -- and it all points to the vodka that’s in the cocktail. Back in the 1940s, vodka was an unpopular liquor on the American cocktail scene. Apparently, Americans joked that vodka was Russian for horrible. Taking a leap of faith, John G. Martin had bought the U.S. rights to the French Smirnoff brand in 1939. He unfortunately found that he couldn’t move the stuff. No one was drinking vodka.

One somber afternoon, Martin was lamenting his inability to sell his booze at the L.A. bar Cock 'n' Bull with the owner, Jack Morgan. Morgan had a similar problem, but with ginger beer. There was another hard-up businessman present who had an abundance of copper mugs he couldn't move either.

With a few drinks under their belt, a little bit of ingenuity and a bartender on hand they put their problems together and came up with the Moscow Mule -- a vodka and ginger beer cocktail served in copper mugs. They marketed the cocktail like crazy and lo and behold, it took off. From then on, vodka was accepted in the American cocktail scene.

The name for this drink was randomly selected. Moscow most likely was used because of the public's tendency to associate vodka with Russia. But mule? Some say mule was added to the name because ginger beer delivers a kick of flavor. But no one really knows for sure.

What we do know is that Moscow Mules are refreshing and delicious. And, you should drink them.

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Moscow Mule Recipes