The Reason Moscow Mules Are Served In Copper Mugs

There's no debate about the origins of the Moscow Mule cocktail. This classic mix of vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and garnishes originated in a Los Angeles bar called the Cock'n Bull in 1941, where it was first served in a copper mug, becoming a staple drink ever since.

However, there is some controversy regarding how the cocktail came to be served in its signature copper container. One theory suggests that the mugs were already at the Cock'n Bull, an English-themed pub, which would typically stock such mugs for beer service. The more popular theory involves a woman named Ozeline Schmidt, the girlfriend of the Cock'n Bull's owner, who had recently inherited her family's copper mine, along with an inventory of copper mugs ideal for chilling drinks — although even this is contested.

The one certainty is that copper mugs are the ideal vessel for a Moscow Mule. Copper is an excellent conductor, meaning it efficiently helps drinks achieve and maintain very hot or cold temperatures. Additionally, some cocktail aficionados believe that copper accentuates the flavors of the Moscow Mule's ingredients, and enhances their aromas as well.

Where did the Moscow Mule's copper mugs come from?

The Cock'n Bull was a Los Angeles institution, frequented by numerous renowned writers and celebrities. Among them, actor Broderick Crawford played a role in the cocktail's creation, credited with tasting the first Moscow Mule concocted by bartender Wes Price. The pub's owner, Jack Morgan, contributed significantly to the drink's origin with his excess ginger beer, and his connection to Ozeline Schmidt. John Martin, the president of Heublein — which held the U.S. rights to Smirnoff vodka — supplied another key component.

Another individual, recent immigrant Sophie Berezinski, is said to have been there as well. According to lore, she was endeavoring to sell 2,000 copper mugs from her father's factory in the Soviet Union. By chance, she visited the Cock'n Bull during the cocktail's invention.

Thus, multiple accounts exist regarding how the Moscow Mule acquired its copper mugs. Which one is accurate? On the 75th anniversary of the cocktail's inception, Smirnoff declared Schmidt was responsible, endorsing her story publicly. Conversely, the Moscow Copper Co., operated by Berezinski's descendants, firmly credits her as the designer and supplier of the mugs that have become synonymous with the cocktail since 1941.

The benefits of using copper mugs

The copper mug is the ideal vessel for a Moscow Mule, not only due to its striking appearance — although that certainly adds to the experience — but also because the copper ensures the cocktail remains chilled throughout consumption. This feature alone justifies adding it to your home cocktail bar, as these mugs are versatile for a range of chilled cocktails and mixed drinks. They are suitable for mint juleps, margaritas, or even a dark 'n stormy (bonus points if you make your own ginger beer). For those who favor simplicity, they're also excellent for savoring a straight, quality mezcal.

To create your own Moscow Mule at home, begin by adding ice to your mug to start chilling the copper. Pour in two ounces of your preferred vodka, followed by three ounces of ginger beer. Conclude with about a half ounce of lime juice. While lime is typically used as the garnish, some recipes also suggest adding mint leaves.