The Story of the Original Moscow Mule Mug and Its Timely Comeback
75 years ago, a Russian immigrant named Sophie Berezinski had a problem to solve. She’d come to America with 2,000 solid copper mugs and the monumental task of selling them. Berezinski’s father owned a copper factory in Russia — Moscow Copper Co. — where she’d worked since her childhood, always wanting to be close to her father. She took great pride in her role there, and in one fateful endeavor, she designed pure copper, cylindrical mugs — mugs that would someday become internationally ubiquitous with the famous Moscow Mule cocktail. But at that time, the mugs weren’t selling in Russia, so she brought them with her upon immigrating to the U.S. Her husband quickly tired of having thousands of mugs cluttering their modest home and he mandated that she was either to sell them or get rid of them.
Luck intervened when Berezinski wandered into Hollywood’s Cock n’ Bull pub. There, she met two friends in a similar predicament: John Martin had purchased the Smirnoff distillery, which was struggling to make waves in an American market that had little interest in vodka. Jack Morgan, the bar’s owner, was trying to get his guests to fall in love with his own brand of ginger beer.
Together, the three developed a cocktail recipe that would save each of their respective ventures. They derived what the world knows now as the Moscow Mule; it highlighted the subtle and smooth Smirnoff vodka with the pungent kick of ginger beer, and was served, of course, in Berezinski’s beautifully crafted copper mugs.
Sophie Berezinski, pictured with her husband Max Berezinski, was an unlikely catalyst for one of the world's favorite drinks. All the same, her copper mugs are an integral part of the Moscow Mule experience.
“So the Moscow Mule really was more of a fluke than anything,” says JJ Resnick, Berezinski’s great grandson and founder/CEO of the relaunched and reimagined Moscow Copper Co. “You know, it wasn't like three people that had been sitting around for weeks working on a business — they all just had their different products that needed to be sold and they came together and were like, ‘Wow, we should figure something out here.’ I don't think they realized at the time how big it would grow to.”
Two generations later, Resnick is bringing back the solid copper mugs that helped make the Moscow Mule famous. He launched Moscow Copper Co. last year, manufacturing his great grandmother’s original mule mug design, and under the namesake of his great-great grandfather’s business. He was inspired to bring back the authentic mug after a trip abroad in which he noticed the famed cocktail being consumed out of cups of all shapes, sizes and materials.
“It was one of those things where, you know, you see something, and you're like, ‘geez that's not right, that's not how Sophie intended the mugs to be,’ and so I made it my mission to make that right and go source the best copper in the world and, you know, really do it right,” he says. “... There are reasons behind the 100% copper, and I also want people to know this is the shape that the Moscow Mule was created in — it was a cylinder shape and not a barrel shape like so many bars serve them in still.”
And so he did. The company saw overnight success after getting a nod from Food & Wine. Ever since, they’ve had nearly more business than they can handle. The mugs are for sale on the site for consumers to buy this historic keepsake. However, restaurants and bars must apply to buy the mugs wholesale. But even with their limited availability, they’ve seen significant uptake.
“A lot of bars are reaching out to us and contacting us, and I'm realizing that people actually do care about it,” says Resnick.
This summer, Moscow Copper Co. is kicking off a tour of the U.S. promoting their products and celebrating the Moscow Mule’s 75th anniversary. The details of the tour will be announced in coming weeks, but we do know that it will culminate in Tales of the Cocktail, where we are also celebrating the year of the mule.
Resnick is hitting the road with a mission: “We're really focusing on bringing back the spirit and the taste of the original, to give people that authentic, original taste.”