How I Found the Moscow Mule: A Mini-Tour Story
Years ago when I was playing on the Mini-tour, we had an event in Casa Grande, Arizona. The town was the former home of the San Fransisco 49er training camp, and the course, Fransisco Grande, provided recreation for the visiting football players. A high-rise hotel had been built back in the 70's and had fallen into disrepair... but the course was fun and challenging.
At the time, the town of Casa Grande (and probably today) was mostly made up of cotton farmers and there was not much going on outside the golf course. When we were finished with the event we found our way to a local watering hole.
It was cool and dark with whirring ceiling fans and a jukebox... perfect. Seated at the bar were several of the local gentry wearing straw hats, jeans, boots, with bandanas hanging out of their back pockets. It reminded me of my roots in west Texas and eastern NM...except for one thing. Instead of long-neck beers the locals in Casa Grande had copper mugs in front of them, cold and sweating on the bar. Some of them twirled and spun their mugs while they talked with each other.
I had to try one... the bartender filled a copper mug with crushed ice, a squeeze of lime, vodka, and ginger beer, stirring until the mug was ice cold and frosty! It was incredibly refreshing after the 100+ heat outside! No wonder it was popular in Casa Grande!
We ended up visiting this water-hole again and on the second visit one of the locals bought me my very own copper mug. That's it in the picture above! If you look close you can see the two mules kicking each other! The surprising thing is that I acquired that copper mug over 20 years ago-- and it has survived through all the years and moves and households. Maybe because it's unbreakable, small, and attached to good memories.
The other night I came across it in the cupboard and made myself a Moscow Mule-- and then I wanted to know more. The history of the drink is pretty interesting.
The mule was born in Manhattan but "stalled" on the West Coast for the duration. The birthplace of "Little Moscow" was in New York's Chatham Hotel. That was back in 1941 when the first carload of Jack Morgan's Cock 'n' Bull ginger beer was railing over the plains to give New Yorkers a happy surprise... Three friends were in the Chatham bar, one John A. Morgan, known as Jack, president of Cock 'n' Bull Products and owner of the Hollywood Cock 'n' Bull Restaurant; one was John G. Martin, president of G.F. Heublein Brothers Inc. of Hartford, Conn., and the third was Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, Heublein's vodka division. As Jack Morgan tells it, "We three were quaffing a slug, nibbling an hors d'oeuvre and shoving toward inventive genius". Martin and Kunett had their minds on their vodka and wondered what would happen if a two-ounce shot joined with Morgan's ginger beer and the squeeze of a lime. Ice was ordered, limes procured, mugs ushered in and the concoction put together. Cups were raised, the men counted five and down went the first taste. It was good. It lifted the spirit to adventure. Four or five later the mixture was christened the Moscow Mule...
As suggested above and evidenced by an article run in Insider Hollywood the Moscow Mule was most popular in Los Angeles: "There is a new drink that is a craze in the movie colony now. It is called 'Moscow Mule'" (December 1942).
The Nevada State Journal reinforced the Mule's popularity in reporting: "Already the Mule is climbing up into the exclusive handful of most-popular mixed drinks"(October 1943).
Legend has it that the Moscow Mule was served in a copper mug as part of its marketing. John G. Martin then launched a Moscow Mule marketing campaign targeting American bars, a strategy that played a major role in shifting the liquor market from gin to vodka.
All I can say is that they were popular in the 1940's and I think they are the perfect retro-cool desert drink for today- I'm glad I still have my mug!