The Curious Origins of the Moscow Mule

04 Oct The Curious Origins of the Moscow Mule

As with almost any cocktail, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of the Moscow mule. Between competing claims and apocryphal stories, no one can say for sure who invented the Moscow mule.

One thing is certain, though: it all started at a British pub in Los Angeles called the Hollywood Cock ‘n’ Bull Restaurant. In 1941, the owner of Cock ‘n’ Bull, Jack Morgan, had developed a ginger beer that he was trying to sell to patrons of the pub.

By one account, he teamed up with John Martin, head of the company that owned a vodka division known as Smirnoff. Some say there were others present, such as another Smirnoff employee or a copper manufacturer. In any case, the story goes, Morgan and Martin were lamenting the poor performance of their respective products. After some testing, they came up with a tasty concoction that would sell both vodka and ginger beer.

A competing claim comes from the Cock ‘n’ Bull’s head bartender, Wes Price. Price claims that he made up the drink to “clean out the basement [and] get rid of a lot of dead stock.”

Whatever story you prefer, one thing is clear: Moscow mules are part of a long history of classic cocktails made to move products that no one wanted otherwise.

Vodka is, by far, the most popular liquor in America, accounting for roughly a third of all spirits sales in the country. It hasn’t always been that way, though. Prior to the rise of the Moscow mule in the 40’s and 50’s, vodka was an afterthought at best. In fact, only 2 years prior, Rudolph Kunett sold the Smirnoff brand to Martin’s company because he couldn’t make rent.

Not very many cocktails can claim to be responsible for the rise of entire industry. It’s as clear as a triple-distilled vodka, though, that without the Cock ‘n’ Bull’s creation, the American spirits industry would not be what it is today.

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