Moscow Mule Shots

Moscow Mule Mugs – Are Copper Mugs Really Better?

A truly great cocktail is about more than alcohol swished together with your favorite mixer. Cocktails should heighten the senses with exquisite flavors, aromas, and presentation. The act of drinking, in and of itself, is a practice of camaraderie, bringing people together to laugh, share stories, and have fun. So any cocktail worth sipping should have it’s own personality and story. The legend of the Moscow Mule, a standout among vodka drinks made with fizzy ginger beer, tangy lime juice, and served in stunning copper mugs, fits on the list of a classic American cocktails like few others. Although the finely tuned ingredients of the Moscow Mule recipe are certainly appealing, the true signature of this mixed drink is the copper mug. Since Moscow Mules first appeared in the 1940s, copper mugs have been essential for proper presentation. But is copper really better? For some traditionalists, even asking the question, “Why is a moscow mule served in a copper mug?” is blasphemous, since decades of ceremony insist that they be used. Yet, for the discerning drinker, it’s important to know the facts. So we must look beyond the ginger beer and vodka to investigate the true benefits of copper Moscow Mule mugs.

Temperature

Copper Moscow Mule Mug The most scientific benefit of using copper moscow mule mugs is temperature. For centuries, the best drinkers have known that chilled drinks in copper cups offer an extra-cool sensation, due to the metal quickly taking on the icy temperature of the cocktail. The rim of the mug becomes chilly almost instantly, offering a frozen sensation on your lips. The cold metal is highly effective at insulating the cold temperature of any liquid, especially good for summertime drinking, and deflecting heat from the sun. The handle of the mug helps maintain drink temperature, as well, keeping the near 100 degree body heat of your hand away from the walls of the mug, and your Moscow Mule safely chilled inside.

Taste Benefits of Copper Mugs

Garden Ring Moscow Mule Mug The taste benefits are a bit more subjective, and will obviously vary, depending on the recipe you use. There are, however, clear indications that using copper mugs for Moscow Mules enhance the individual flavors of the ginger beer, vodka, and lime. Some experts say that when vodka touches the walls of the mug, the copper begins to oxidize, slightly boosting the aroma, and enhancing the taste of the vodka. Cold copper also has a tendency to increase the amount of bubbles in the carbonated ginger beer, bringing maximum fizziness to the Moscow Mule, when compared to being served in a plastic or glass container. The lime juice is also brought to life by the extra-cold copper, heightening the tangy citrus notes and reducing the acidity to better compliment the spicy ginger beer. When these three flavors reach their maximum potential, they work together to prove that the Moscow Mule deserves its home among classic American cocktails.

The Experience

Hammered Copper Moscow Mule Mug Arguably, the clearest reason to use copper mugs for Moscow Mules is the presentation. A martini just doesn’t seem right unless it’s served in the classic, stemmed glass vortex, with the spirits swirling around a sunken olive. The same is true for any well made drink. Re-tracing the history of the Moscow Mule, this ginger beer and vodka combination started at a bars in Manhattan and Hollywood in 1941. In order to give the drink a distinctive look, the originators ordered specially made copper Moscow Mule mugs, and took pictures of patrons drinking them with Polaroid cameras, a cutting edge invention of the day. The photographs began to circulate, and popularity of drinking a zesty Moscow Mule from a sleek, shiny copper mug found its place in American cocktail culture. Hugely popular in the mid 20th century, recent trends have solidified the timeless nature of this mixed drink.

Are Copper Mugs Really Better?

Solid Copper Mule Mug Yes. Copper mugs are hands down the best choice for mixing up the best Moscow Mule recipe. In fact, many other cocktails would benefit from this sleekand stunning vessel. No matter which reason is most important to you, whether it be temperature, taste, or experience, you will no doubt enjoy the great tradition of sipping an ice cold Moscow Mules from a beautiful copper mugs.

 

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Comments (13)

  1. a

    You don’t address that most copper mugs are not copper on the inside. Is this a negative?

    • As far as the mugs that we carry in our store, we have quite a few that are copper on the inside, so there are plenty of 100% copper options available. As mentioned in the article, some suggest that when liquid hits the copper, and begins to oxidize, the flavor is enhanced. This would not be true for a mug with stainless steel lining, or a lacquer finish, but all of the temperature & aesthetic benefits would remain true.

      • i have seen the mugs you used for these photos and they are nickle lined mugs. does nickle offer a similar effect?

        • The nickel lining is Moscow Mule mugs is very thin, more like a coating on the surface of the copper construction. It really does not have a significant impact on the temperature of the drink. It looks great, though!

        • Absolutely, when you drink the mug your mug touches the outside more than the inside (think how lipstick on a glass is always on the outside). Your flavor should not change, nor the temperature. The flavor added from the thin nickel lining is pretty much the same as the copper. I have both in my home and guests cannot tell a difference between the lined and pure copper. I will tell you the pure copper patina so they need cleaned with something like bar keepers friend (sold at the hardware store) if you want to keep them shiny. The nickle lined ones do not, nickel does not patina. That being said the full cooper ones are more traditional, so there are subtle pluses and minuses to both. HWB has full cooper and nickel lined whichever you prefer, additionally they also have a stainless steel lined one. Purists (myself included) would say you will not get the same taste effect from the stainless, but it looks sharp and is cheaper if you are on a budget.

  2. Michael

    I have a few copper mugs that are unlined, copper on the inside. i’ve notice over time, that i can pick up the taste of copper especially towards the last sip or two. Is this of concern? Do you sell a food safe product to clean the inside of the copper mugs? Thanks

    • Having a slightly metallic taste can happen, especially with un-coated, 100% copper mugs. There’s no reason for concern, you’re likely tasting the metal more as the drink becomes diluted. We do sell a product called “Bar Keepers Friend” that is a food safe cleaner, although it can only be used on un-coated drinkware.

  3. Copper is not an insulator. In fact, it’s such a good conductor that we wire our houses with it… (thermal conductivity in metals approximately tracks electrical conductivity) Glass is a much better thermal insulator, which is why we have fiberglass insulation.

    • topo

      Was just about to type this. Don’t know how he made it through the logic of it immediately becoming cold yet somehow insulating

      • My thinking is that, although the metal conducts the temperature almost immediately, the feeling of the cold cup, or as I phrased it the “sensation,” gives the drinker an enhanced ultra-cool experience. For example, when I drink a Moscow Mule, the cold metal on my lips has a crisp feeling that’s not achieved through glass or plastic. In addition, the cold metal mug does help maintain the temperature better than, for example, a paper or disposable plastic cup, due to the fact that the copper will match the temperature of the contents, and keep body heat away when the handle is used.

      • I might chime in here with my opinion as well. The mug gets colder than a regular glass does. Not sure on the exact science, just speaking from a lot of experience. Glasses tend to warm to room temperature, whereas the copper mug tends to get colder once the ice and liquid is added. You can see this yourself if you take a frosted glass from the freezer and add a drink to it. Immediately the glass loses the frost and starts warming. In contrast your copper mug probably starts at room temperature or slightly chilled and then gets much colder when the cocktail and ice are added. The copper mug stays exactly that cold until the ice melts or you finish it. Typically my drinks stay colder longer in the copper mug as well. Less transfer of heat between your hand and the glass since you are using the handle of the copper mug is likely part of this, the larger surface area of a glass may also explain part of it. I’m not a PhD but I think the third reason might be the transfer of cold from the copper mug to your mouth happens quicker than a mug made of glass, essentially tricking your brain into thinking it’s colder.

        Finally we get to the taste, if you are skeptical I think one trip to an upscale bar that uses copper mugs will change your mind. Not only is the cocktail colder (explained above) it also has a more spicy and refreshing flavor. Once again based on experience rather than science, but I think if you take me up on this and go visit your local bar you will definitely notice the difference.

  4. Vanessa

    “The cold metal is highly effective at insulating the cold temperature of any liquid, especially good for summertime drinking, and deflecting heat from the sun.”

    I hope you realize this isn’t how the physics of heat transfer work…anything that takes on the temperature of what’s inside, isn’t insulating but transferring. Copper actually makes the drink warmer faster because of it’s excellent heat transferring qualities. This is why a great smoker feels cool to the touch even if it’s 500 degrees, or why a great cooler doesn’t feel cold even on a hot day….because they are insulating not transferring.
    Great post aside from that though.

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