January-February 2010

The Mule's New Kick

By: The Tasting Panel Editorial Team

In the 1940s, a new cocktail took Hollywood by storm. Introduced at the celebrity-studded Cock ‘n Bull restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, the Moscow Mule—a tasty concoction of vodka, ginger beer and lime, served in a copper mug—became the most talked-about drink of the decade.

Today, the craze for classic cocktails means that the Mule is back. But this time around, it brays with a Russian accent because it’s made with authentic vodka from the Motherland: Russian Standard, the #1 premium vodka in Russia.

THE TASTING PANEL recently visited accounts in Los Angeles and San Francisco where this classic cocktail is putting the kick back into cocktails.

Yamashiro, Hollywood

Yamashiro Beverage Manager Steve Wastell, Russian Standard Brand Ambassador Eric Davison and Los Angeles Market Manager Chris Stenger enjoy an icy Moscow Mule on the terrace of the Japanese-inspired restaurant. PHOTO: DAVID GADD

High on a hill in Hollywood, overlooking Sid Grauman’s fabled Chinese Theater, is a splendid Japanese mansion. Yamashiro (“Mountain Palace”) was completed in 1914 to house the priceless Asian art collection of department store magnates the Bernheimer brothers.

A 600-year-old pagoda, disassembled and shipped from Japan, graces the garden. Today, the sprawling complex is home to one of Hollywood’s most popular restaurants, with spectacular views from nearly every one of its 500 seats.


With its historic Los Angeles associations, the Moscow Mule has become the most popular vodka drink on the cocktail menu at Yamashiro, according to Beverage Manager Steve Wastell. Not only does Wastell craft his Mules with top-shelf Russian Standard Platinum for a decidedly upscale take on the classic, but he also serves them in special copper mugs, recommended by Russian Standard.

“When one guy saw the Moscow Mule on our menu,” Wastell recalls, “he said, ‘I haven’t had one of those in 40 years. It used to be served in a copper mug.’” Westall immediately presented him the drink in its period-correct metal vessel, branded with the Russian Standard logo in Roman characters on one side and Cyrillic on the other. “The customer was blown away,” Westall smiles.

Westall deftness behind the bar may come from the fact that he’s also a professional magician who performs at the nearby Magic Castle. For the ginger component, Westall says he prefers to use Elixir G ginger mix and lemon-lime soda, with the advantage of being able to adjust the ginger flavor to suit the customer’s preference.

“We’re reinventing the Moscow Mule in a more authentic way, with real Russian vodka,” notes Eric Davison, Brand Ambassador for Russian Standard. The original Russian Standard is the vodka of choice for most establishments that are reviving the Moscow Mule, but as Davison notes, “Some of our accounts like to bump it up to Russian Standard Platinum for a premium experience.”

Chris Stenger, Russian Standard’s Market Manager for Los Angeles, agrees: “There’s been a real push toward Platinum among mixologists.”

With an icy Moscow Mule and all of L.A. spread out before them, Wastell’s patrons at Yamashiro are carrying on a fabled Hollywood tradition.
The Moscow Mule works equally well with Russian Standard or its super-premium sibling, Russian Standard Platinum


The Tipsy Pig, San Francisco

Jamal Blake-Williams, Bar Manager for The Tipsy Pig, says the Moscow Mule has become a standard, and Russian Standard Vodka is its perfect foundation. The retro-drink also uses Bundaberg ginger beer from Australia, fresh lime and is served in the traditional copper mug.

In its first year of business, The Tipsy Pig, centered in the upwardly mobile Marina District of San Francisco, has stayed consistently busy. The thriving neighborhood, powered by young families, supports the local gastrotavern: this favorite evening dining spot—once the kids are safe in bed watched over by sitters or nannies—also becomes a perfect after-hours retreat.

The Moscow Mule has been leaving hoof prints at the bar; it has practically become an official cocktail at The Tipsy Pig and Bar Manager Jamal Blake-Williams explains why. “It’s easy to make. It’s refreshing. The quality of vodka associated with it—Russian Standard—brings it up several notches, not only to cover a wide range of palates but also to impress everyone’s taste, across the board.”


Blake-Williams—who also oversees another bustling bar just down the street, authentic upscale Mexican restaurant Mamacita, from Tipsy Pig owners Sam Jose, Stryker Seales and Nate Valentine—points out that ingredients make the difference.
 “To bring back a classic drink like the Moscow Mule, you have to make it better than it has ever been made before.  Erin Hughes of Russian Standard had me sample the vodka; its character was right up there with the ultra-premiums, but at a surprisingly lower cost. It doesn’t skip a beat in quality. I think the fact that we go through 35 to 45 cases a month proves the point.”  


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