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Why Are Moscow Mules Served in Copper Mugs?

Moscow mules consist of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, and they are garnished by a lime wedge and mint leaves. However, many would say the cocktail is not complete without a copper mug, but why? Below we go through the reasons why in-the-know party hosts and knowledgeable bartenders serve Moscow mules in a copper mug.

Why Use Copper Mugs for Moscow Mules?

Moscow mules are served in a copper mug as a result of the drink’s history, along with the physical properties of the mug. Below are the three main reasons why Moscow Mules are served in a copper mug.

1. History

Vintage photo drawing of two men sitting at a table having a conversation over drinks

Though it has a conflicting origin story, the Moscow mule was at least in part created around 1941 by Jack Morgan, the owner of LA British pub Cock ‘n’ Bull. (A recent publication also says that the bartender of Cock ‘n’ Bull helped develop the drink.) According to cocktail historian Ted Haigh, Jack Morgan had a girlfriend who owned a copper-making company. Some versions suggest the original copper purveyor may have been Sophie Berezinski, a Russian immigrant. Either way, copper mugs arose as a feasible receptacle with which to brand the drink.

Together with Jack Morgan, John Martin (who had recently bought Smirnoff), developed the drink because neither could sell their respective goods: Morgan, ginger beer, and Martin, vodka. To market the drink, John Martin went from bar to bar, taking photos of celebrities with Moscow mules and bartenders holding copper mugs and Smirnoff vodka. This campaign boosted the popularity of the drink as served in a copper mug.

2. Temperature

Moscow mule cocktail in a copper mug with ice and limes

Copper is a superior thermal conductor, so copper mugs respond to the temperature of what is inside, keeping it chilled or warm depending on the beverage. When containing a Moscow mule, copper mugs become cool, creating a chilling sensation when sipped. This is especially desirable in warm weather when cold drinks can easily melt.

The temperature property is particularly true for pure, unlined copper mugs. Lined copper mugs are typically copper-plated over or lined with nickel, stainless steel, or tin. Though this makes lined mugs more durable and less susceptible to copper leaching, they do not respond to temperature as precisely as unlined mugs do.

3. Taste

Top view of a moscow mule cocktail in a copper mug

Cold copper seems to intensify the fizziness of the carbonation in Moscow mules, making for refreshing sips and an aromatic fragrance. Many Moscow-mule drinkers also say that the copper cup enhances the flavors of the spicy ginger beer and citrus lime.

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Moscow mules were originally served in copper mugs as a response to the drink's proximity to the product (copper mugs). However, the copper mug has proven to be a viable choice to serve this crowd-favorite, flavorful cocktail. To keep your copper cups in prime condition, always be sure to wash them properly after use.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries | By Hannah Herrera
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