What do you do when you want to unload a stock of ginger beer and promote a new type of white whiskey? You create a cocktail, of course. That’s how John G. Martin, president of Heublein Inc. (a producer and distributor of alcoholic beverages), and Jack Morgan, proprietor of the Cock ‘n’ Bull Tavern on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, proved that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.
The year was 1941; the place was New York City’s Chatham Hotel. Gin was the “it” drink at the time, and Martin and Morgan were looking to replace it with Martin’s newly acquired white spirit, Smirnoff’s vodka. While sitting around the bar one day, they married Morgan’s line of spicy ginger beer with Martin’s vodka and lime juice in a copper mug and gave birth to the Moscow Mule. Thanks to their ingenuity, vodka sales more than tripled between 1947 and 1950. Morgan took the drink to the West Coast, where the Moscow Mule became the toast of the town in Hollywood. The libation fell from grace in the early 1950s, owing to the anti-Communist craze that gripped the entertainment industry. With no such stigma today, the Moscow Mule is enjoying a comeback.
“The Mule is in again, and most everyone is offering the classic,” says Katy Edwards, a bartender at Roost. In an ironic twist, she substitutes gin for vodka in Roost’s version of this cocktail. John G. Martin would not be pleased.