Classic Moscow Mule

5 from 2 votes

The classic Moscow Mule is a vodka cocktail with sweet and spicy ginger beer and a touch of zesty lime juice. Learn how to make the traditional mule drink and customize it to your liking. 

A copper mug holds a ginger beer cocktail garnished with a lime wheel and copper straw.

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About this Moscow Mule cocktail

I have a serious love for all things ginger. I snack on candied ginger, add it to ground ginger to baked goods and crave it in my cocktails as well. In fact, the very first cocktail recipe that I posted on this blog was for a simple whiskey ginger ale.

But cocktails are even better with ginger beer, which is a non-alcoholic soda made with ginger. The most famous of which is a Moscow Mule, a drink of vodka, ginger beer and lime. 

This recipe is my go-to, the base for all my mule recipes. (I have over 30 unique mule recipes here on the site!) I always keep the three ingredients on hand to make these whenever I want one, but there are so many ways to make this simple drink.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Mules are one of my favorite cocktails ever. I love them because… 

  • Mules are so customizable. You can change out the spirit or add flavors with simple syrup or muddled fruit. 
  • They are perfectly balanced. The lime cuts the sharp ginger, which masks the alcohol. 
  • With just three ingredients, these are easy, quaffable drinks. 
  • Light and refreshing, the mule can be enjoyed all year long. 
Overhead view of a lime cocktail with its tools and ingredients surrounding.

The classic Moscow Mule recipe

The Moscow Mule is an alcoholic cocktail traditionally made with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, and is famously served in a copper mug. Although it’s called a “Moscow” mule, it’s actually an American drink. The name refers to the vodka, not its origin.

It’s one of the International Bartender’s Association (IBA) contemporary classic cocktails. This list sets the bar for official cocktail recipes. 

The beauty of the Moscow Mule is that it’s versatile and can be made with myriad flavors and spirits. The mule often gets another name when the vodka is swapped out. For example, when made with Irish whiskey, it’s called an Irish Mule. Or with mezcal, it’s a Mexican Mule. 

A lime wedge and ice in a moscow mule cocktail.

Moscow Mule history

Today, vodka is one of the most popular spirits in the world. But it wasn’t always that way. Until well after Prohibition ended in the 1930s, vodka was virtually unknown in the United States. It’s all thanks to the Moscow Mule that vodka found its celebrity. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, a Russian immigrant named Rudolph Kunett began making vodka in Connecticut, but wasn’t very successful until he sold the Smirnoff brand to John Martin in 1939. Martin worked for G.F. Heublein & Bros, an alcoholic beverage producer and distributor. 

There are a few conflicting stories about who exactly invented the Moscow Mule. Martin claimed he invented it with his friend Jack Morgan, the owner of the Cock ‘n’ Bull, an English pub on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip that served a housemade ginger beer. 

Another story suggests the Cock ‘n’ Bull was sitting on an overstock of Smirnoff vodka from Martin. The head bartender Wes Price created the drink to clean out the bar’s basement and served the first one to the actor Broderick Crawford, and it was an instant hit. 

The Cock ‘n’ Bull advertised the drink with copper mugs engraved with the picture of a bucking mule. Guests would steal them, but later Smirnoff sold the mugs (which you can still sometimes find on eBay). 

One more story, this one from the Moscow Copper Co., goes that Russian immigrant Sophie Berezinski brought a stock of copper mugs to America from her father’s copper factory in Russia. She went door to door in Los Angeles in search of a buyer, and in 1941 walked into the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub, where Martin and Morgan were developing their cocktail recipe. 

Half of a lime sits in front of vodka cocktails in copper mugs.

Copper Moscow Mule mugs

Traditionally, they are served in copper mugs. Copper insulates them to keep them ice cold, which also helps to bring out the flavors in this classic cocktail.

Traditional Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs to keep the beverage cold, but a Collins or similar glass filled with ice will work just fine.

It is often served in a copper mug, but feel free to use a glass if you don’t have one handy! If you’re a mule lover, it might be time to invest in some though! Here are some of my favorite mugs.

If you’re looking for a set of mugs to add to your collection or to give to the Moscow Mule lover in your life, look no further than these copper beauties.

Ingredients

There are three main ingredients in a Moscow Mule:

  • lime juice
  • ginger beer
  • vodka 

It’s usually garnished with a lime wedge, a slice of lime or even the spent shell of a juiced lime. Sometimes it’s embellished with a sprig of lime, too. 

These flavors are delicious in drinks and desserts. Try them in a fluffy slice of  Bourbon Ginger Ale Cake, a round of boozy Moscow Mule jello shots or some Moscow Mule Cookies too. 

Best vodka

Vodka is the classic Moscow Mule spirit. As the drink was invented by Smirnoff, using that brand would be the most authentic. However, there are so many brands of vodka to try it with. I usually keep Absolut, Tito’s or Reyka vodka around my house. 

You can even use flavored vodka. For example, you can make a spicy mule with a spicy vodka or tequila, or mix up a pear mule with pear-flavored vodka. 

Ginger beer is poured over ice in a copper mug for a cocktail.

Best ginger beer 

Ginger beer kind-of a cross between root beer and ginger ale, and it’s totally delicious. It’s essentially a strong ginger soda, whereas ginger ale is more sweet than gingery. 

In fact, I compiled a taste test of ginger beers and ranked them by how ginger-spicy they are! 

Many people like Fever-Tree’s ginger beer, but it’s too mild for me. My favorite brand of ginger beer for a rum dark & stormy is Bundaberg, but for vodka mules Reed’s is a close second. If I can get my hands on Fentiman’s, I’ll always go for that one. It’s spicier with layers of herbal and ginger flavor. 

A moscow mule cocktail in a copper mug garnished with a lime wedge and fresh mint leaves.
Kentucky Mule

Easy variations on mules

The great thing about mule cocktails is that you can easily change them up. The two constants are ginger beer and lime juice, but you can swap out the vodka for other flavors or add in juices and simple syrups. 

Swap out the spirit

And if you’re either out of vodka, just not a vodka lover or looking to mix things up, you can substitute other liquors in this legendary cocktail recipe for similar results. However, this usually changes the name. Case in point: 

  • Mexican Mule or Oaxaca Mule: Made with crisp tequila or smoky mezcal and sometimes made spicy. 
  • Kentucky Mule: The vodka is swapped with  bourbon whiskey. A sprig of mint gives it a Kentucky Derby mint julep vibe. 
  • Irish Mule: Try the mule with Irish whiskey for sweet and caramel-like notes. 
  • Tennessee Mule: Add charcoal-mellowed Tennessee whiskey for a smooth whiskey mule. 
  • Glascow Mule: Use Scotch whiskey to make a smoky Scotch mule. 
  • French Mule: Cognac or brandy adds sweet and fruity undertones to the mule. 
  • London MuleAlso called the gin-gin mule, the herbaceous flavors of gin pair well with the spice in ginger beer. 
  • Dark and Stormy: This Caribbean version of the mule uses dark rum. 
  • Swedish Mule: With lingonberry juice and herbal aquavit, this version is fruity and herbaceous.
  • Peruvian Mule: Pisco adds hints of grapes and vanilla to a mule. 
  • Gingerbread Mule: Absinthe, orange and cucumber make the cocktail taste like a cookie. 
  • Czech Mule: Herbal liqueur Becherovka adds notes of spruce and pine. 

You can make any of them into a frozen Moscow mule! One of my favorite treats for super hot days.

This champagne mule doesn’t use ginger beer; instead, it uses ginger liqueur and champagne to bring in the ginger flavor. It’s so much fun for New Year’s Eve or any kind of celebration. 

Two Blueberry Mules alongside fresh mint and blueberries.
Blueberry Mule

Fruity mules

Fruit flavors pair well with ginger and lime juice, so they make delicious mule variations. You can make them fruity by adding juices, using flavored liqueurs muddling fruit or mixing in a simple syrup

  • Cranberry mule: We call this a Yule Mule, a holiday drink with light rum and cranberry juice. White cranberry juice is another light and refreshing twist. (This one is SO popular for Christmas parties.)
  • Pomegranate mule: Tart pomegranate juice adds a punch of flavor.
  • Grapefruit mule: Swap the lime juice for bittersweet grapefruit for a kick. 
  • Blueberry muleSweet and tart blueberries add a little taste of summertime. 
  • Strawberry mule: Muddled strawberries add sweet berry flavor into the mix. 
  • Pumpkin spice muleMake a pumpkin spice syrup for a taste of autumn.
  • Raspberry mule: This version uses a splash of Chambord liqueur. 
  • Apple mule: Apple cider adds fall spices. You can also use applejack or apple brandy.

Instructions

Making a mule is a cinch. Here’s how I do it:

Vodka is poured from a stainless steel cocktail jigger into a copper mug.
Lime juice is added to a cocktail in a shiny metal mug.

Fill a copper mug with ice. Squeeze lime juice into the mug and drop in the spent shell (or add it later as a garnish).

Ginger beer is poured over ice in a copper mug for a cocktail.
A hand places a lime wedge into a mule cocktail with ice.

Then, pour in the vodka and top with ginger beer. Stir gently. Garnish with another lime slice, if desired.

How to make Mules for a crowd

Mules are a cinch to whip up en masse for a party. Everyone will rave about this crowd-pleasing party drink. 

To prepare your mule mixture, you don’t want to add the ginger beer ahead of time because it will go flat. Instead make a big batch of the lime and vodka base. 

Then, you can either top each glass with ginger beer right before you serve the drinks or add it to the pitcher (or punch bowl) just before the party begins.

Set up a bowl of lime wedges to garnish drinks with quickly and easily.

Here is a basic recipe to follow that makes ~8 cocktails:

  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • 4 cups ginger beer (32 ounces)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges for garnishes
Two copper mugs next to two copper straws and a whole lime.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • Fresh lime juice makes a big difference. I like to use a citrus juicer to squeeze it into the mug, then I drop in the spent shell to add some extra flavor and a zesty aroma as you sip. 
  • Try using different kinds of ginger beer to find your favorite. They vary in their ginger spiciness, so you can go milder or sharper. 
  • Use a quality vodka, or experiment with using other spirits to try new flavors.
  • If you can use a mule mug, do it. It keeps the drink ice cold. If you’re using a regular glass, use crushed ice for a similar effect. 
A lime wheel in a Moscow Mule.

Frequently asked questions

Can Moscow mule mugs go in the dishwasher?

No, you shouldn’t put Moscow mule mugs in the dishwasher. Use warm water and dish soap with a sponge to clean the inside and outside, then rinse and dry with a towel. Clean them up as soon as you can after finishing your drink so the liquids don’t linger too long in the glass — acidic lime juice can degrade the copper. An alternative is to use stainless steel mugs that have a copper finish on the outside. 

Why are Moscow mule mugs copper?

For one, copper mugs keep the drink ice cold. But they’re also the mug that the original cocktail recipe was designed for. 

Do I need to buy copper mugs for mules? 

No, you don’t. Copper mugs make the drink ice cold, but you don’t have to use one. To mimic the iciness in a regular glass, use a lot of ice cubes or some crushed ice, the latter of which best recreates the temperature of the mug. 

More classic vodka cocktails

Half of a lime sits in front of vodka cocktails in copper mugs.

Classic Moscow Mule

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
A classic vodka cocktail with spicy ginger beer and a hint of lime.
5 from 2 votes
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ingredients

  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer chilled
  • lime slices for garnish

instructions

  • Fill a copper mug with ice. Squeeze lime juice into the mug and drop in the spent shell. 
  • Then, pour in the vodka and top with ginger beer. Stir gently. Garnish with another lime slice, if desired.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 8ounces Calories: 173kcal Carbohydrates: 11g Protein: 0.1g Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 9mg Potassium: 18mg Fiber: 0.1g Sugar: 10g Vitamin A: 7IU Vitamin C: 4mg Calcium: 5mg Iron: 0.2mg
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Comments

  1. ANNIE says

    I used to have some of those copper cups for Mules and just saw then for sale online.That was a very popular drink in the mid ’80, at least in N. CAL. Yum!

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