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What’s the difference between Russian mule and Moscow Mule?

The Moscow Mule and the Russian Mule are two similar-sounding drinks that both contain vodka and ginger beer, but there are some key differences between them. The Moscow Mule was created in the 1940s in the United States and helped drive vodka’s popularity during that time. The Russian Mule is a more recent variation that gained popularity in the 2000s.

What is a Moscow Mule?

A Moscow Mule is a cocktail made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a lime wedge. It’s typically served in a copper mug. The exact origins are disputed, but the Moscow Mule most likely originated in the 1940s at the Cock ‘N Bull restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

The bartender, John G. Martin, wanted to find a use for surplus ginger beer the restaurant had purchased from a local manufacturer. At the same time, John G. Martin’s friend Jack Morgan of Heublein Brothers had excess Smirnoff vodka to unload. The two decided to combine the ingredients together and the Moscow Mule was born.

The drink took off in popularity and helped drive a surge in vodka drinking in the United States during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The combination of vodka and ginger beer proved to be very refreshing and appealing. The copper mug was adopted as a way to help keep the drink cold.

Standard Moscow Mule Recipe

– 2 oz vodka
– 4-6 oz ginger beer
– Squeeze of fresh lime juice
– Lime wedge garnish

Add vodka and lime juice to a copper mug or Collins glass filled with ice. Top with chilled ginger beer and garnish with lime wedge.

What is a Russian Mule?

The Russian Mule is very similar to the Moscow Mule, but with a few key differences. While the Moscow Mule traditionally uses vodka, the Russian Mule substitutes traditional Russian vodka with Russian Standard Imperia Vodka.

Imperia Vodka has a higher vodka content (89% compared to 40% ABV for regular vodka) and is filtered through silver. This makes for a smoother, more premium vodka.

The other key difference in a Russian Mule is the use of homemade ginger syrup instead of ginger beer. Fresh ginger is juiced or muddled to extract the flavor and then sweetened with sugar into a rich syrup.

Standard Russian Mule Recipe

– 2 oz Russian Standard Imperia Vodka
– 1 oz homemade ginger syrup
– Squeeze of fresh lime juice
– Lime wedge garnish

Add vodka, ginger syrup and lime juice into an ice-filled copper mug or Collins glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

Key Differences

Moscow Mule Russian Mule
Vodka (usually Smirnoff) Russian Standard Imperia Vodka
Ginger beer Homemade ginger syrup
Created in 1940s United States Created in 2000s Russia

As shown in the table, while both drinks contain vodka and ginger, the specific ingredients and histories differ:

– The Moscow Mule uses regular vodka while the Russian Mule uses premium Russian vodka. This gives the Russian Mule a smoother taste.

– Ginger beer provides carbonation and a more dilute ginger flavor in the Moscow Mule. The homemade ginger syrup in the Russian Mule gives a more pure, concentrated ginger taste.

– The Moscow Mule originated decades earlier in America while the Russian Mule is of more recent Russian origin.

Flavor Profiles

Beyond the core ingredients, the Moscow Mule and Russian Mule offer slightly different flavor experiences:

Moscow Mule

– The ginger beer adds a carbonated, diluted ginger flavor. The lime adds tartness to brighten up the drink.

– The vodka provides an alcoholic kick but isn’t overly assertive. The smoother vodka melds into the ginger beer and lime.

– Overall, a Moscow Mule has a refreshing, crisp, ginger-forward taste. The carbonation adds to the drink’s lively quality.

Russian Mule

– The homemade ginger syrup provides a pure, concentrated ginger flavor that dominates the drink.

– The Russian vodka has a smooth character that doesn’t overpower the ginger.

– The lime adds a touch of tartness to balance out the sweetness.

– Overall, a Russian Mule highlights the ginger and has a richer, sweeter flavor profile compared to the Moscow Mule. The lack of carbonation creates a smoother drinking experience.

Serving Vessels

Both the Moscow Mule and the Russian Mule are typically served in copper mugs. The copper conducts the cold and helps keep the drink chilled. The metal also reacts with the Moscow Mule’s ginger beer to lend a slightly metallic taste.

The Moscow Mule is very closely associated with the iconic copper mug, while the Russian Mule can be presented in other vessels like a rocks glass. However, the copper mug remains the standard serving choice.

Some key considerations around copper mugs include:

– Must be 100% copper – stainless steel or copper-plated won’t properly conduct temperature.

– Unlined mugs allow contact between the copper and the drink. Lined mugs are also common to prevent this interaction.

– Mugs come in various sizes, typically 8-16 oz. The 12 oz mug is ideal for a standard mule recipe.

– Vintage, decorative mugs are popular but more expensive. Simple modern mugs also work well.

Popularity & Availability

Both the Moscow Mule and the Russian Mule have risen in popularity as vodka drinks over recent decades:

– The Moscow Mule surged along with vodka consumption in the mid-20th century United States. Its popularity endures today as a common offering at most bars.

– The more recent Russian Mule has also gained a strong fan base, especially among vodka and ginger beer aficionados. It’s frequently found at higher-end cocktail bars.

Here’s a comparison of their availability:

Moscow Mule Russian Mule
Bars Very common Less common but gaining traction
Restaurants Usually available Spotty availability
Home bartending Easy – uses common ingredients Harder – needs specialty ingredients

The Moscow Mule reigns supreme in terms of ubiquity and accessibility. However, as the Russian Mule continues to grow in popularity, its availability is improving. Be sure to check ahead at bars or restaurants if seeking out a Russian Mule. The specialty ingredients also make it harder to recreate at home.


Due to its more exotic ingredients, the Russian Mule comes at a higher price:

– A Moscow Mule typically costs $8-$12 on a cocktail menu. The core ingredients are relatively inexpensive.

– A Russian Mule costs $12-$16, sometimes more at high-end establishments. The premium vodka and ginger syrup raise the price.

– At home, a Moscow Mule can be made for around $2-3 per serving. A Russian Mule costs $4-6 due to pricier components.

Keep in mind that prices can vary greatly depending on the establishment. Upscale bars in expensive cities will charge more. Home bartenders can make both drinks fairly affordably.


The Moscow Mule contains around 180 calories while the Russian Mule has about 200 calories.

Here is a more detailed calorie breakdown:

Moscow Mule (12 oz drink) Russian Mule (12 oz drink)
Vodka 100 calories 100 calories
Ginger Beer/Syrup 80 calories 100 calories
Lime Juice 10 calories 10 calories
Total Calories 180 calories 200 calories

The Russian Mule has slightly higher calories due to the added sugar in the ginger syrup. However, both drinks are relatively low in calories for cocktails. The carbonation in ginger beer also creates a feeling of fullness.

Alcohol Content

The Moscow Mule and Russian Mule contain the same amount of alcohol. Each drink has:

– 2 ounces (1 shot) of vodka
– Vodka typically has 35-40% alcohol by volume (ABV)

This means both cocktails will contain around 20% ABV, or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol:

– 2 oz vodka x 40% ABV = 0.8 oz of pure alcohol
– 0.8 oz alcohol / 4 oz total fluid = 20% ABV

The Russian Mule substitutes a higher proof vodka, but uses the same 2 ounce volume. So the total alcohol measure remains equal.

Both drinks are considered standard in terms of alcohol impact. Neither one is particularly high or low in alcohol compared to similar cocktails.

Flavor Variations

The Moscow Mule and Russian Mule both offer opportunities for creative variations by tweaking ingredients:

Moscow Mule Flavor Ideas

– Different citrus like orange, grapefruit, lemon, or other juice
– Flavored vodka like citrus, pepper, or herb infused
– Ginger honey or ginger simple syrup instead of ginger beer
– Dash of spice like chili pepper or cinnamon
– Herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, lavender

Russian Mule Flavor Ideas

– Mint or basil ginger syrup
– Jalapeno, pineapple, or lemon ginger syrup
– Flavored vodka like bacon or pepper infused
– A few dashes of bitters
– Top with ginger ale for some bubbles

Playing around with different flavors can keep the Moscow Mule or Russian Mule feeling fresh and exciting. The basic templates provide a great canvas for creativity.

Garnish Ideas

Moscow Mules and Russian Mules are typically garnished with a lime wedge or slice. Some other garnish ideas include:


– Thin orange slice
– Lemon wheel
– Watermelon triangle
– Pineapple chunk
– Apple slice or fan


– Rosemary sprig
– Basil leaf
– Lavender sprig
– Mint leaf
– Thyme sprig


– Cinnamon stick
– Fresh grated nutmeg
– Crushed pink peppercorn
– Star anise


– Maraschino cherry
– Candied ginger
– Sugared rim
– Cucumber ribbon

Get creative with garnishes that complement or contrast the mule’s flavors. Fruits, herbs, and spices offer great options.

Cocktail Variations

The Moscow Mule and Russian Mule serve as templates for lots of great cocktail variations:

Moscow Mule Variations

– Mexican Mule – Tequila, ginger beer, lime, jalapeno
– London Mule – Gin, ginger beer, lime
– Parisian Mule – Cognac, ginger beer, lemon
– Dark ‘N Stormy – Dark rum, ginger beer, lime

Russian Mule Variations

– Mexican Mule – Tequila, ginger syrup, lime, jalapeno
– London Mule – Gin, ginger syrup, lime
– Parisian Mule – Cognac, ginger syrup, lemon
– Dark ‘N Stormy – Dark rum, ginger syrup, lime

Vodka can be substituted with any base spirit while keeping the ginger beer or ginger syrup constant. Playing with the spirit creates refreshing new twists.

Pairing Food

Here are some tasty food options to pair with Moscow Mules and Russian Mules:

Moscow Mule Food Pairings

– Seafood like oysters, shrimp, or sushi
– Grilled chicken
– Tacos or Mexican food
– Vegetarian dishes
– Spicy Asian foods like pad thai
– Charcuterie and cheese

Russian Mule Food Pairings

– Barbecue like pulled pork
– Burgers or hot dogs
– Sweet & spicy Thai food
– Ginger-flavored dishes
– Sharp cheeses
– Chocolate or vanilla desserts

In general, the Moscow Mule’s lighter profile matches more delicate foods like seafood and vegetables. The Russian Mule complements bolder flavors like barbecue. But both can work with a wide variety of foods.

History & Origins

The Moscow Mule originated in the early 1940s in the United States:

– John G. Martin of the Cock ‘n Bull restaurant wanted to sell excess ginger beer
– His friend John Morgan of Heublein Brothers needed to unload surplus Smirnoff vodka
– Together they mixed the two ingredients with lime to create the Moscow Mule
– The drink helped popularize vodka in the U.S. in the 1950s-60s

In contrast, the Russian Mule is of modern origins:

– Created in the early 2000s in Russia as a new twist on the Moscow Mule
– Uses Russian Standard Imperia vodka instead of regular vodka
– Homemade ginger syrup instead of ginger beer
– Helped spur a renewed interest in vodka cocktails

The Moscow Mule came first by several decades. The Russian Mule adapted the concept using premium Russian ingredients to create a more modern incarnation.

Which Should You Drink?

So which makes the better choice – the Moscow Mule or the Russian Mule? Here are some guidelines:

– If you want something classic and accessible, choose the Moscow Mule. It’s easy to find and hard to mess up.

– For a more refined, upscale drink, go with the Russian Mule. The premium ingredients shine through.

– If you like lots of carbonation, pick the Moscow Mule. The ginger beer provides bubbly refreshment.

– For concentrated ginger flavor with less bubbles, the Russian Mule is best.

– Trying to watch calories or carbs? The Moscow Mule is slightly lighter.

– On a budget? The cheaper Moscow Mule may fit the bill better.

There’s no definitive answer – it comes down to personal taste and the occasion. Both provide refreshing, crowd-pleasing options for vodka-ginger cocktails.


While the Moscow Mule and the Russian Mule share similarities, they have distinct histories, ingredients, flavors, and drinking experiences. The Moscow Mule is light and accessible with ginger beer and regular vodka. The Russian Mule features premium vodka and concentrated ginger syrup for an upscale twist. Both make excellent cocktail options, so try each one to see which you prefer. Whichever you choose, enjoy the refreshing blend of ginger and vodka in a classic copper mug. Skål!