The Moscow Mule is enjoying a resurgence. The traditional vodka-lime-ginger beer drink—and inspired variations—are popping up on cocktail menus across North America.
Craft distillers, breweries and cocktail bars are making their own piquant ginger beers or ginger syrups and looking for ways to mix them into drinks.
“Spicy is a big thing for today’s palate,” says Matthew Hendriks, master distiller at Park Distillery in Banff, Alta., which makes a dry-style ginger beer that’s mixed with Park Vodka in the restaurant’s take on the Moscow Mule.
It was Jack Morgan, owner of the now-shuttered Cock ’n’ Bull bar in Hollywood, who first combined his own ginger beer with vodka in 1941. His friend John Martin had recently acquired Smirnoff, and was happy to supply the vodka. Teaming up with the daughter of a Russian factory owner desperate to sell a stockpile of copper mugs, they hatched a plan to create a new cocktail. The classic mule was born.
Now, a new generation is rediscovering the spicy classic, or something like it, with ginger being the common denominator.
“It’s a super-refreshing and balanced vodka cocktail,” says Hendriks, who calls his version FiFi’s Mule, after a local mountain. “You’re getting sweet, sour, bitter, spicy; it’s all there.”
Here are three places where bartenders are putting a creative twist on the Moscow Mule.
Drink: Moni and the Mule
This drink takes the traditional mule to exotic new heights with its Moni incarnation. It’s an Indian twist on the vodka classic that adds cayenne, fresh mint and house-made ginger simple syrup, subbing in the more herbaceous gin and topping the drink with tamarind soda, a sweet-and-sour Indian staple.
Drink: Blackberry Mule
At this French-style Texas bistro, beverage director John Michael O’Shea serves a version of the Moscow Mule that’s a crowd-pleaser. To its classic ingredients, he adds juicy blackberry liqueur, which is the perfect foil to bubbly Fever-Tree ginger beer, a spicy mixer. The refreshing cocktail beats the Texas heat any time of year.
Drink: El Diablo
Bar managers Dave Castillo and Michelle Bearden make their own pungent ginger beer and infuse tequila with serrano chilies for a fiery take on the classic. The duo also adds mezcal for a splash of smoke befitting this devil of a drink. The end result is a tequila mule that’s sweet, sour, spicy, earthy and dangerously easy to drink.
Recipe: Original Moscow Mule
2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
Ginger beer (about 4 oz.)
Glass: copper mug
Garnish: lime wheel
Method: Build in a copper mug filled with ice. Top with ginger beer.