The Happiest Hours: Meet the Moscow Mule

Here’s a shout out to my friend, Monique Maher Cmejrek—who is stylish and sophisticated, and introduced me to the Mule at her wedding, when she served it as a signature drink.

According to Ted Haigh (a.k.a Dr. Cocktail), cocktail historian, the Moscow Mule is essentially one of those happy accidents that changed the history of mixology. Though vodka was imported to the United States prior to Prohibition, it failed to inspire a large following other than those from Eastern Europe—who drank it often and straight. After Prohibition, Rudolf Kunetchansky “Kunett” bought the rights to his friend’s vodka label: Pierre Smirnoff Vodka.

Sadly, even after Repeal, vodka wasn’t in high demand. Neither was ginger beer—as Kunett discovered from his friend Jack Morgan, owner of the Cock n’ Bull Tavern in Los Angeles. Nor was there  much interest in copper mugs—a tumbling business which Morgan’s lady friend had inherited.

What to do with vodka, ginger beer, and copper mugs…?

Hey! Wait just a minute!

The combination of these three losers became a quick success and the Moscow Mule stormed the nation. In an interview with Stephanie Schorow, Boston journalist Luke O’Neil noted the significance of the Moscow Mule in popularizing vodka in this country—and one can only imagine the wealth of good and bad drinks that would not be drunk if the Mule never happened. No Sex on the Beach. No Screwdrivers. No Cosmos.

Here are two versions of the drink to try. The first is from The Latin Quarter (see the chapter on Nightclubs in Drinking Boston). The second is from Ted Haigh’s book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. As you’ll see, the Latin Quarter’s version (circa 1940s) had already evolved from the original as represented by Dr. Cocktail.

In Boston, many of the best cocktail bars do a great Moscow Mule – but we are particularly smitten with the one served (in a copper mug, thank goodness) at Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale in Downtown Crossing. Have your own favorite version of the Mule? Let us know in the comments below! UPDATE: We have learned via twitter that Local 149 in South Boston makes a mean Moscow Mule. Our source tells us it’s because they are making their own ginger beer, which elevates the drink to something very special. Keep ’em coming!

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From the Latin Quarter

1 1/2 ounces vodka

1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Juice of 1/2 lime

Ginger beer

In a mixing glass half filled with crushed ice, combine vodka, sugar, and lime juice. Stir well. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with chilled ginger beer. Ornament with a mint sprig and lime slice.

From Ted Haigh

Squeeze 1/2 lime into a Moscow Mule mug

Drop the spent lime into the mug

Add ice cubes and 2 ounces vodka

Fill with ginger beer


Latin Quarter image from the author’s collection. Moscow Mule image courtesy of

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