Happy Hour Quickie #4: Moscow Mule

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour

This week’s Happy Hour Quickie© abides by 2 of our strict HHQ™ rules — it comes together quickly and is impossible to screw up.

But the third rule — that it require only easily available ingredients — is a slight stretch. You may have to visit a decent grocery or package store to provision one key ingredient.

A Measured Spirit cocktail recipe blog Craig Stoltz
To make a proper Measured Spirit Moscow Mule, you must use Fever Tree ginger beer. You must not use a large copper mug.

Happy Hour Quickie recipe: Moscow Mule

  • 2 oz vodka [1.5 oz for the more sessionable version — which is to say a drink of which you can have more than two without having to summon Lyft]
    • As with nearly all vodka drinks, brand just doesn’t matter. But Smirnoff’s is the original. Don’t use any of those high-priced Gray-vedere-roc-whatever brands. Total waste. 
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
    • Most recipes call only for a lime wedge garnish.  I like the addition of citrus juice.  Eliminate it if you wish.
  • 4 oz [measured] Fever Tree Ginger Beer
    • Use only this product, which has a high-spice, make-your-lips-tingle buzz. Most easily available ginger beers [Barrett’s] are too wan to carry the drink.  

Squeeze the lime juice into an Collins glass, a double Old Fashioned, or a small copper mug. Add the vodka. Fill the vessel with cracked ice. Top with the Fever Tree.

Garnish with a slice of lime. Feeling rakish? Just toss the spent lime shell on top.

Moscow Mule tasting notes

  • Cool, refreshing, and easy to drink on a warm day. Be careful.
  • The lime juice adds a sharp citrus tang that complements the vivid spice of the Fever Tree. For a simple iced drink, there’s a lot going on.
  • The vodka disappears, as vodka tends to do. Hell, swap in grain alcohol, or a handy cleaning product. Any neutral fuel will do.

Measured Spirit Tip®: Don’t use a big copper mug like the handsome 16-ouncer pictured, which my brother-in-law kindly gifted me. It’s too big. You’ll either wind up using too much ice, resulting in dilution, or too much ginger beer, sacrificing potency. The vessel should be no more than 8 oz. unless you’re making a double. In which case use whole ice cubes to slow dilution.

Happy quickie tweaks

  • Use a dark rum and call it a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.  Don’t waste your aged stuff on this beverage. The rum doesn’t disappear like the vodka, but this drink is still all about the ginger beer and citrus.
  • If you’re feeling expansive, offer your guests either option for a base spirit and let them mix up their own, buffet-style. Compare notes.
  • Craig Stoltz Measured Spirit cocktail recipe blog
    Horse’s Neck: Highball with whiskey, ginger ale, bitters, and a fancy garnish.

    Have only ginger ale? You’re not dead yet. Use whiskey and a dash of bitters. Call it a Horse’s Neck.

    • To be legit you should use a citrus peeler to cut a fat long slice of lemon peel. Place it gently in the drink and let the other end curl languidly outside the glass.
    • After failing with this delicate surgery twice, just use a lemon wheel, call it a highball, and drink the darn thing.

Impress your happy hour friends with these fun facts

  • The Moscow Mule was created, or at least popularized, by marketeer John Martin, as a gambit by Smirnoff’s parent company to create a U.S. market for the then little-known-in-America liquor.
  • As a result of Martin’s efforts, a pub called the Cock ‘n’ Bull in Hollywood offered engraved copper mugs to the joint’s movie star habituees. The mugs hung, glinting and glamorous, behind the bar. Suddenly the mule was cool. The rest is marketing history.
  • The Mule wasn’t Smirnoff’s only attempt to hook Americans on this flavorless, odorless Russian distillate. Martin & co. also successfully marketed the vodka Bloody Mary and the Screwdriver.
  • They also tried to market a Vodkatini, but failed. They got the last laugh. Barkeeps tell me that vodka Martinis now are ordered more often than the gin variety. I neither understand nor endorse this behavior.
  • In a fascinating Cold War historical footnote, Martin was later revealed to be a tool of Khrushchev’s Soviet Union, dispatched to generate exports for a struggling Soviet economy, develop high-level assets, and pick up critical intelligence about U.S. commerce. He disappeared during a visit to Cleveland in 1957 and was never heard from again.
  • Actually, I just made up that last one completely. It is a shameless, unfair fabrication. Martin was clean. So was Smirnoff’s, as far as I know. But you have to admit, it’s a great happy hour story.

Author: Craig Stoltz

Suburban boulevardier. Former Washington Post journalist, entrepreneur, ex-Time.com Top 25 blogger. Foodie. Cocktail geek. Proudly work in digital communications for you, The American People.

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