Although Americans drink three times more of it than any other spirit, vodka didn’t make its grand premier on the cocktail scene until the 1940s. Because of vodka’s late entrée – and because most cocktail geeks hesitate to call anything a “classic” unless it was concocted prior to the end of Prohibition – you won’t find many vodka drinks on classic cocktail menus.
However, one vodka drink you will find on the menu at The Sawbuck is the Moscow Mule – a delicious and refreshing highball that forever changed Americans’ boozing habits and earned itself the special, oxymoronic title of a true “modern classic.”
Cocktail lore has it that the Moscow Mule kicked its way into the cocktail scene 1941, when the American businessman who bought the Smirnoff name from a Russian family (but was having a hard time finding an American audience for the stuff) encountered an L.A. bar owner who was overstocked on ginger beer. Having little to lose, the two gentlemen threw their respective wares together with some fresh lime, served it up in a copper mug, and dubbed it the irresistibly alliterative Moscow Mule.
The drink was a hit and it wasn’t long before it swept the country from its L.A. bar of origin all the way to the clubs of Manhattan, sparking a vodka craze that would only increase in fervor in the ensuing decades. In the 1950s, Americans subbed vodka for gin in their Martinins; in the ‘60s and ‘70s they swapped it for rum and whiskey in their highballs; they poured it over New Coke in the ‘80s; and they mixed it with everything under the sun during the “(insert favorite candy-store flavor here)-tini” craze of the ‘90s and early 2000s.
However, few – if any – of the drinks concocted during vodka’s decades-long, Russian Army-like march over of the cocktail kingdom have withstood the test of time like the truly modern classic Moscow Mule.