The Moscow Mule: A Kicker of a Cocktail
History of the Moscow Mule: while the Moscow Mule sounds like the title of a story about a stubborn Muscovite or, perhaps, a reference to a hybrid animal, born from the union of a donkey and a mare, it has nothing to do with Moscow or any type of obstinence.
Rather, the term refers to a unique highball drink that was conceived in the warm and sunny enclave of Sunset Strip in California. Back in 1941, the highball cocktail made an appearance at a pub named the Cock ‘n Bull.
The owner of the Cock ‘n Bull could not sell his supply of ginger beer and his visiting patron was at a loss as what to do with a supply of Smirnoff vodka that he could not unload. What’s more, a friend of theirs lamented that she had some tankards of copper she simply could not use.
The Moscow Mule is born
A meeting of the minds resulted in the development of the wildly eccentric highball known as the Moscow Mule. The term “mule” or “buck” refers to any cocktail that is mixed with a premium vodka and decorated with a twist of lime as an additional complement. Add some ginger beer and you’ve made the drink an official Moscow Mule. While some bartenders mix the ingredients in a highball glass, it is considered more apropos to use a copper mug by the same name.
Therefore, you might say that the Moscow Mule is one of the species of highballs that feature a more sizable portion of non-alcoholic mixer than a spirit base.
The Origination of the Term, “Highball”
The “highball” name references the practice of serving tall-glassed drinks on steam locomotives at one time. When the train engine got up to speed, the ball that indicated the boiler pressure on the train would be said to be “highballing.” The name was eventually tied to the name for the railroad car libation.
Other Popular Highball Drinks
The best known of all highballs is a mix of a drink that is made with carbonated water as the non-alcoholic mixer and Scotch whiskey as the alcohol base. The drink was first introduced in the UK as Scotch and soda. Besides the Moscow Mule and Scotch and soda, other popular samples of highball drinks include the Seven and Seven, the gin and tonic, or the Cuba Libre.
Again, usually a highball is served in a taller glass known as a Collins glass or highball. The Moscow Mule usually forgoes the glass as a small copper tankard is part of the drink’s unusual yet illustrious past.
At the time the Moscow Mule was conceived and introduced to the “spirit” world, it was christened as a beverage in a mug that was made of copper. While you may see variations of the Moscow Mule drink, the traditionally correct way is to serve the L.A. born concoction in a small copper tankard. Indeed, you might say that the Moscow Mule is the only highball that takes exception to being served in tall or Collins glassware.
Cock ‘n Bull History
The fateful meeting that led to the making of the Moscow Mule again took place in 1941. At that time, John G. Martin, who worked at G. F. Heublein Brothers, Inc., an East Coast food and spirits distributor, walked into the establishment known as the Cock ‘n Bull Restaurant, located in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard.
The mock type English tavern at the time was a popular “watering hole” of Hollywood celebrities – a place where irreverence seemed to be in good supply, where such notables as Richard Burton would change his so-called “favorite” table each time he switched wives or where Rod Stewart and his soccer team often enjoyed a rousing good time.
The pub-type establishment closed after 50 years after being one of the famous survivors on the Sunset Strip of a bygone Hollywood. The establishment survived the closing down of nightclubs and the Schwab’s drugstore where stars like Lana Turner were supposedly discovered. While that particular “legend” isn’t true, it certainly produced the kind of fodder that tabloids once digested and consumed.
By the time of the restaurant’s closing in 1987, the Tocadero and Mocambo nightclubs of the Big Band age had been replaced by parking lots and a comedy store. The owner of the tavern reportedly said that parking was becoming more and more of a problem making closing the restaurant a necessity.
So the birth place of the Moscow Mule passed on to that great big tavern in the sky when it hit the young age of 50. Ironically, given its name, it is rather funny that the Cock ‘n Bull tavern became a part of an auto dealership. When the pub closed, some former regulars flew in to mark the occasion. In the final week of the restaurant’s life, the place became a locale in which to swap stories, some of which had been fondly archived until the moment of the establishment’s closing.
Jack Morgan Sr., who founded the tavern, is credited with making vodka in the U.S. a popular drink after the creation of the Moscow Mule, always served in a copper mug in the restaurant. However, Morgan was not as fond of the Hollywood type of royalty as he was the old-fashioned English royals from the Victorian era.
The walls in the pub at the time the drink was first mixed were covered with English newspapers and autographs of English celebrities. U.S. celebrities often enjoyed visiting the pub as they were not hounded about their autograph but were left alone instead. Those autographs, as stated, were reserved for famous people from the UK.
A Sensation of the 40s
At the time Mule took form, no one wanted each of the products in the beverage in and of themselves. However, when you combined the ingredients and the copper cups were used, the Moscow Mule became a sensation overnight.
Maybe that is why the Moscow Mule stands apart from other highball cocktail mixes today. Its signature ingredients have no other equals among other highball cocktails or other variations of the Mule. The Mule is just too “stubborn” to be served in a tall glass on the rocks.
Treat yourself…pick up a set of copper mugs for your home, NOW!