The Moscow Mule cocktail is notorious for its iconic home, the copper mug. In the mid-1900s, the unlikely pairing of vodka, ginger beer and lime was met with this strange vessel, designed by a Russian coppersmith, desperate to find use for her handcrafted copper mugs. Be it by design or by accident, the copper mug is now a staple piece of drinkware in restaurants, bars, and homes alike.
Popular as they are, there’s still a lingering skepticism about the purpose of copper mugs. Why are Moscow Mules served in copper mugs? Why not a traditional cocktail glass? What’s the point of copper, anyway?
Answers to each of these questions vary depending on the person mixing your drink, or whichever corner of the internet your search leads you to first.
Our team at Copper Mug Co. is here to set things straight.
MOSCOW MULE MYTHS
#1 Does drinking from copper affect the taste of beverages?
Copper mugs won’t change the chemistry of a beverage, due to the protective food grade lacquer, but since copper is commonly recognized for its unique scent and taste, a true connoisseur may be able to recognize the positive effects on a beverage when drinking from a copper mug.
The growing popularity of Moscow Mules encouraged bar owners and restaurateurs alike to serve the refreshing cocktail in its truest form: ice cold in a copper mug. However, that trend was met with skepticism when cocktail connoisseurs began to question the claims surrounding the unique drinking vessel. Copper is commonly recognized for its unique scent and taste. Those same characteristics have led some to claim that the bitterness of pure copper elevates the flavors of the Moscow Mule.
The truth behind this claim is only as true as every palette is distinct, but copper has been found to have more subtle (and positive) effects when in contact with liquid. Nevertheless, our mugs at Copper Mug Co. are externally coated in a food-grade lacquer to prevent unwanted tarnishing and protect their shine.
#2 Is drinking from copper healthy?
Copper – like iron – is an element that is essential for our physiological well being. Copper assists in the formation of red blood cells, and the mineral also supports the nervous system and bone health. Some have even found copper to support a healthy metabolism when ingested in small amounts (which is typically achieved through a balanced diet).
The truth is, copper has antimicrobial properties. Studies have shown that copper eliminates bacteria when placed in direct contact with water, among other liquids. The effects aren’t immediate, but long-term contact between copper and water causes bacteria’s cell walls to weaken, resulting in the death of bacteria. While a copper water bottle may have limiting antimicrobial effects on your daily hydration method, leaving water in a copper vessel for up to 48 hours has been proven effective at purifying the water.
#3 Do copper mugs keep drinks cold?
Perhaps the most common claim surrounding the use of copper mugs is its apparent ability to keep beverages ice-cold. Keyword: apparent.
The truth behind this phenomena is caused by the copper mug actively conducting heat from your hands (and lips) as you enjoy the beverage, creating the illusion that the drink is colder than ice.
Copper, like other metals, is a highly conductive material. If you were to put a flame to a copper mug, it would begin to heat rapidly – much more quickly than a ceramic or glass mug. However, when an ice-cold beverage (say, a Moscow Mule) is poured into a copper mug, you’ll find yourself juggling your mug between two hands to avoid what feels like frostbite.
Ah, so that’s what the handle is for…
See, as copper is inherently a conductive metal, meaning that it not only conducts heat from electricity, but it conducts heat from its surroundings. That includes body heat. So, if a Moscow Mule were to be poured in equal parts into a glass tumbler and a copper mug, the copper mug would feel drastically cooler than the tumbler.
Needless to say, there are countless Moscow Mule myths that travel from one bar to another. Some are true, and some are… well, less than so. Scientifically speaking, the effects of copper on beverages served in copper mugs are slim to none. While a traditional Mule shouldn’t be served in anything but a copper mug, electing a premium vodka, a spicy ginger beer and only the freshest lime is truly the quality you can taste.