The world’s premiere gathering of everything spirits happens each summer, appropriately enough, right here in New Orleans. For 2016, Tales of the Cocktail® will be The Year of the Mule; the Moscow Mule to be exact. There are several reasons I am a fan of this refresher. First, it only has 3 ingredients proving once again that a cocktail does not need to be complicated to be great. It also has an important place in the booze world’s marketing history being one of the earliest examples of “regular” folks being influenced by the media and the drink choices of celebrities.

There are 2 main players in our Mule legend, one supporting actor, and one girlfriend whose name has been lost like so many bar napkins. John Gilbert Martin was the president of G. F. Heublein & Bro., an East Coast spirits and food distributor. He bought the rights to Smirnoff Vodka in 1939 from Rudolph Kunett and kept him on as president of the Pierre Smirnoff Company. John “Jack” Morgan was the owner of Cock’n Bull Products which produced among other things, ginger beer. He also was the proprietor of the Cock’n Bull Tavern on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

The short version of the story is John had vodka that was not selling, Jack had ginger beer that was not selling and, according to our friend, Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh in his book “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” Morgan also had a girlfriend that owned a company that made copper mugs. They all got together and the rest is history. Well, I never really have enjoyed the short version of cocktail origin stories, here is a more fun version.

From the July 28, 1948 issue of the New York Herald Tribune:

"The mule was born in Manhattan but "stalled" on the West Coast for the duration. The birthplace of "Little Moscow" was in New York's Chatham Hotel. That was back in 1941 when the first carload of Jack Morgan's Cock 'n' Bull ginger beer was railing over the plains to give New Yorkers a happy surprise. Here was ginger beer in crockery bottles tasting exactly like that of old England."

"Three friends were in the Chatham bar, one John A. Morgan, known as Jack, president of Cock 'n' Bull Products and owner of the Hollywood Cock 'n' Bull Restaurant; one was John G. Martin, president of G. F. Heublein Brothers, Inc. of Hartford, Conn., and the third was Rudolph Kunett, president of the Pierre Smirnoff, Heublein's vodka division. As Jack Morgan tells it, "We three were quaffing a slug, nibbling an hors d'oeuvre and shoving toward inventive genius." Martin and Kunett had their minds on their vodka and wondered what would happen if a two-ounce shot joined with Morgan's ginger beer and the squeeze of a lime. Ice was ordered, limes procured, mugs ushered in and the concoction put together. Cups were raised, the men counted five and down went the first taste. It was good. It lifted the spirit to adventure. Four or five later the mixture was christened the Moscow Mule--and for a number of obvious reasons. "

The first mention of the cocktail in print comes to us courtesy of Edith Gwynn and a column run in the December 27, 1942 edition of Inside Hollywood, “There is a new drink that is a craze in the movie colony now. It is called ‘Moscow Mule’.”

New Orleans is all about music as well as penultimate potent potables, so I have a fun music fact from 1941 as well. On December 7, Glenn Miller & his Orchestra reached number 1 on the charts with Chattanooga Choo Choo. Not unlike the significant place in booze history the Moscow Mule has, this song has, perhaps, and even more important spot in the world of recorded music. The 78 rpm record was the very first to be recognized with a Gold Record!

 Founded in 2002, Tales of the Cocktail® has grown from a small gathering of cocktail lovers into the world’s premier cocktail festival. Each year the international spirits industry is welcomed to New Orleans for a week of seminars, tastings, networking events and much more. With 200+ annual events developed specifically for bartenders, distillers and other spirits professionals, Tales of the Cocktail® is the industry’s annual meeting place for the exchange of new ideas, products and techniques.


MOSCOW MULE (Copper Mug or Rocks Glass)

2 oz. – Vodka

1 oz. – Fresh Lime Juice

4 oz. – Ginger Beer

Garnish – Lime Wheel & Mint Sprig

Add all ingredients to iced glass. Stir and garnish.



 WHAT: 14th Annual Tales of the Cocktail®

WHEN: July 19 – 24, 2016

WHERE: The Hotel Monteleone is the host location with events throughout New Orleans

TIX & INFO: Visit TalesOfTheCocktail.com for more information