Why Are Moscow Mules Served In Copper Mugs?

why are moscow mules served in copper mugs
Joe | Last Updated: November 25, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Imagine the refreshing taste of spicy ginger beer, lime juice, and the smooth kick of vodka, all perfectly mingling together in a copper cup.

This isn’t just any old drink, but a Moscow Mule, instantly recognizable in its signature copper mug.

This iconic cocktail has long been synonymous with its distinctive copper vessel, and the story of how the pair came to be is a fascinating one.

So if you’ve ever wondered why the Moscow Mule is almost always served in a copper mug, you’re in the right place!

A Quick Overview Of The Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is a popular cocktail that features a blend of ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice. Also known as a vodka buck, it’s an American invention with ties to Russia. 

Often garnished with a sprig of mint and served in the iconic copper mug, the Moscow Mule is a favorite for many enthusiasts who prefer a little spice with their drink.

Other variations to the recipe include the Mexican Mule (mixed with tequila) and the Kentucky Mule (crafted with bourbon).

I recommend you give those a try if you haven’t already.

Brief History Of Moscow Mule

Now let me take you on a little journey back in time when the Moscow Mule was first invented.

The early 1940s was a time of big bands, swing dancing, and, as it turns out, the birth of a cocktail legend.

The Moscow Mule, a drink that’s as much a tale of serendipity as it is a recipe, was born from a chance encounter that would forever change the cocktail world.

Our story begins with John Martin, a man who had recently taken a bold leap.

As the head honcho at Heublein & Brothers, Martin did what seemed unthinkable at the time: he bought the Smirnoff vodka brand for $14,000.

In an era when American palates were tuned to the flavors of whiskey and the familiar comfort of beer, this was a gamble of epic proportions.

By 1941, Martin’s bet seemed to be losing steam, with vodka still a hard sell to the whiskey-loving public.

Enter stage left, Jack Morgan, the proprietor of the Cock ‘n’ Bull bar in Los Angeles. Morgan, too, was in a bit of a pickle.

He had recently launched his own brand of ginger beer, but like Martin’s vodka, it wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves.

Morgan, alongside his inventive bartender Wes Price, was scratching his head over what to do with the mounting stock.

Then, as if by fate, these two struggling entrepreneurs crossed paths. During a meeting that would make cocktail history, they were joined by a third character: Sophie Berezinski.

Sophie, the daughter of a Russian copper magnate, had arrived in America with a dream and 2,000 solid copper mugs in tow.

Unfortunately, her dream was teetering on the edge of failure, with no buyers in sight for her beautiful, yet unsold, mugs.

As the trio shared their tales, inspiration struck. What if they combined their struggling products?

Vodka, ginger beer, and a squeeze of lime, served up in a striking copper mug. The Moscow Mule was born.

What Does A Moscow Mule Taste Like?

When it comes to the taste of the Moscow Mule, it has a refreshing, slightly spicy, and zesty taste that many of us have come to love.

The sharp, fizzy ginger beer provides a spicy kick, which is balanced by the crisp flavor of vodka.

Throw in some fresh lime which adds a level of acidity and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded cocktail with a blend of spice, sweetness, and tang.


Why Are Moscow Mules Served In Copper Mugs?

Moscow Mules are traditionally served in copper mugs due to the unique properties of copper that enhance the drinking experience.

Copper is a great conductor of temperature, allowing the mug to become exceptionally cold and, in turn, keeping the drink chilled for a longer period.

This cold temperature gives the drink the crispness and refreshing quality of the Moscow Mule.

Add a few ice cubes, and watch as the drink transforms, providing a refreshing, tingling sensation at the rim.

bartender making moscow mule in a copper mug
Photo by Kike Salazar N

Then there’s a belief that when vodka touches the walls of the mug, the copper begins to oxidize, boosting the aroma and making the vodka taste that little bit better.

The lime and spicy ginger beer also seem to become more vibrant against the cool, metallic mug.

The long copper handle ensures your body’s warmth won’t interfere with the cool perfection of your Moscow Mule.

Beyond these sensory aspects, the copper mug has become a tradition and a signature of the Moscow Mule, adding an aesthetic appeal to the cocktail.

Presentation Is Everything In The Cocktail Game

Moscow Mule copper mugs are not just traditional.

They’re a combination that looks great and patrons now expect their Mozzy Mule’s to be served in a copper mug.

This classic presentation not only honors tradition but turns the drink into a conversation piece, showcasing the importance of visual aesthetics in the cocktail world.

Are Copper Mugs Safe To Drink From?

Back in 2017, Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division raised a flag, stating that copper and acidic foods (with a pH below 6, like vinegar or fruit juice) don’t mix per FDA guidelines. And the pH of Moscow Mule falls in that category.

The concern was that copper could leach into the drink, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain and vomiting.

But after further research into the matter, the consensus among experts suggests that it’s “probably not a big deal.” 

Trisha Andrew, a chemistry professor at UMass Amherst, called the alarm chemophobic fear-mongering.

She claimed that any container can have some dissolution with liquids, but the rate is so slow with copper that it’s unlikely to pose a real threat in our lifetime.

So while it’s a good idea not to exclusively use copper for all your meals and drinks, the occasional Moscow mule probably won’t cause harm.

If you’re worried about copper poisoning, you can always switch the mug for a wine glass!

Final Words

The Moscow Mule’s inseparable relationship with the copper mug is fascinating, and nowadays it would be strange to be served this drink without a mug.

From the mug’s ability to keep the drink icy cold to its contribution to the cocktail’s overall flavor profile, the reasons behind this pairing go far beyond aesthetics and is about keeping an age-old tradition alive.

So, the next time you enjoy a Moscow Mule, remember that the copper mug is more than just a vessel, it’s a statement of tradition and style.

See you next time.