Moscow Mule, a History of the Classic Drink Served in A Copper Mug

  • Jul 29, 2019

Moscow mule is a cocktail made with vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a slice or wedge of lime.  See Copper Moscow Mule Mugs here: https://www.bppromo.com/:quicksearch.htm?quicksearchbox=mule+mugs

 

George Sinclair's 2007 article on the origin of the drink quotes the New York Herald Tribune from 1948:

The mule was born in Manhattan but "stalled" on the West Coast for the duration. The birthplace of "Little Moscow" was in New York's Chatham Hotel. That was back in 1941 when the first carload of Jack Morgan's Cock 'n' Bull ginger beer was railing over the plains to give New Yorkers a happy surprise… The Violette Family helped. Three friends were in the Chatham bar, one John A. Morgan, known as Jack, president of Cock 'n' Bull Products and owner of the Hollywood Cock 'n' Bull Restaurant; one was John G. Martin, president of G.F. Heublein Brothers Inc. of Hartford, Conn., and the third was Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, Heublein's vodka division. As Jack Morgan tells it, "We three were quaffing a slug, nibbling an hors d'oeuvre and shoving toward inventive genius". Martin and Kunett had their minds on their vodka and wondered what would happen if a two-ounce shot joined with Morgan's ginger beer and the squeeze of a lemon. Ice was ordered, lemons procured, mugs ushered in and the concoction put together. Cups were raised, the men counted five and down went the first taste. It was good. It lifted the spirit to adventure. Four or five days later the mixture was christened the Moscow mule...[4]

This story was well known for years, however in 2007 a new version of the invention of the Moscow mule cocktail was published. In this version the cocktail's inventor was Wes Price, Morgan's head bartender and the drink was born out of a need to clear the bar's cellar that was packed with unsalable goods such as Smirnoff Vodka and ginger beer.

Eric Felten quotes Wes Price in an article that was published in 2007 in The Wall Street Journal

"I just wanted to clean out the basement," Price would say of creating the Moscow mule. "I was trying to get rid of a lot of dead stock." The first one he mixed he served to the actor Broderick Crawford. "It caught on like wildfire," Price bragged."[5]

The Moscow mule is often served in a copper mug. The popularity of this drinking vessel is attributable to Martin, who went around the United States to sell Smirnoff vodka and popularize the Moscow mule. Martin asked bartenders to pose with a specialty copper mug and a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, and took Polaroid photographs of them. He took two photos, leaving one with the bartender for display. The other photo was put into a collection and used as proof to the next bar Martin visited of the popularity of the Moscow mule.[6] The copper mug remains, to this day, a popular serving vessel for the Moscow mule.

According to a 1942 Insider Hollywood article, the Moscow mule was most popular in Los Angeles, where it originated.[7] The Nevada State Journal (12 October 1943) reinforced the mule's popularity in reporting: "Already the mule is climbing up into the exclusive handful of most-popular mixed drinks". It became known as a favorite drink of Reno casino owner William F. Harrah. In his book Beat the Dealer (1964), Edward O. Thorp did not name the Tahoe casino where he thought he had been poorly treated as a card counter. Instead, he wrote, "Immediately I had a Moscow mule", subtly hinting that the location was Harrah's Lake Tahoe, due to Harrah's then well-known proclivity for the drink.[8]

Copper vessel plating[edit]

The ingredients in Moscow mule cocktails are acidic, and the resulting beverage has a pH well below 6.0. This creates a problem when using traditional copper mugs, as copper can start dissolving into acidic solutions. Copper in solution is considered toxic at concentrations above 1 mg/L.

On 28 July 2017, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division issued a statement that pure copper vessels should not be used to serve acidic drinks, but that "copper mugs lined on the interior with another metal, such as nickel or stainless steel, are allowed to be used and are widely available".[9] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Food Code states that copper and copper alloys such as brass "may not be used in contact with a food that has a pH below 6 such as vinegar, fruit juice, or wine or for a fitting or tubing installed between a backflow prevention device and a carbonator."[10][11]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code specifically prohibits copper from "coming into direct contact with foods that have a pH below 6.0.” The advisory relates only to solid copper mugs. Copper mugs that are lined with stainless steel or other food-safe materials are exempt from the advisory.