We wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call the Moscow Mule a classic cocktail, given that it was only invented in the 1940s, but it certainly holds a special place in the American drinking zeitgeist. Thanks to some phenomenally good marketing by Smirnoff, the ginger-and-lime concoction was at least partly responsible for popularizing vodka in the post-war United States.

It’s one of those drinks that’s led a charmed life, never representing the pinnacle of cocktail culture but never really going out of style, either. That’s likely because it’s so simple—aside from the novelty copper mug, this is a recipe any drunken college kid could whip up without much fuss. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for nuance.

As the selection of artisanal, small-batch sodas grows with each passing year, the Moscow Mule has grown into a bit of class. Soft-drink wonks are constantly coming up with new ways to make ginger beer a fantastic beverage by itself, which has benefited the cocktail greatly. Nowadays, it’s probably better suited for a polo-clad summer barbecue than a seedy nightclub.

Since we’re such big fans of this drink as a simple summer go-to, we figured we’d walk you through the steps to make a perfect one. The Moscow Mule might have been derided by snobs in the past, but it’s time for it to join the world of great drinking.

The Moscow Mule

The Mug

No, the copper mug is not required to make a Moscow Mule. But when you see how good it looks in the photo above, you might just be tempted to go out and buy one anyway (we certainly were after that shoot, but San Francisco’s Rye bar wasn’t exactly keen on us taking it home for free). In lieu of the trademark vessel, you can go ahead and use a highball or Collins glass, which works just fine.

The Vodka

As with any drink that uses this much soda, you probably don’t want to spend too much on the spirit. While it’s good to avoid that 1.5-liter plastic bottle of swill you picked up for five bucks, the subtleties of any high-quality vodka are going to be lost in the other ingredients. Tito’s is great, Smirnoff is the classic choice, and even Pinnacle has been good in our experience, despite the plastic packaging.

The Ginger Beer

Great ginger beer is the key to a great Moscow Mule, and luckily for us, there’s plenty of it out there these days. There are certainly going to be some local favorites in your area that you should check out (seriously, these producers are popping up almost as quickly as craft breweries), but there are a few nationally-available brands that have done well for us in the past.

Fentimans and Great Uncle Cornelius’ are probably our favorites, and since the latter is a little sweeter and heavier it benefits from being mixed with ice and booze. Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew is downright ubiquitous these days, and also makes for a solid choice. And while we might just be suckers for the cool-looking bottle, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Bundaberg.

The Lime

This one’s pretty self-explanatory: use a fresh lime (no bottled stuff) for both the half ounce of juice and a wedge or wheel for garnish. No, really. That’s it.


Now, get the Moscow Mule recipe


This is part of a series on the Moscow Mule, so be sure to check out our pieces on The Sordid History of the Moscow Mule and 12 Must-Have Moscow Mule Variations!

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