The Mule cocktail was first created in Los Angeles in the 1940s by a bartender at the Cock ’n Bull, where staff had trouble selling a line of ginger beer produced by the bar’s owner. They famously combined it with vodka and lime in a copper mug, naming the drink the Moscow Mule, despite the vodka being produced in Connecticut, and Los Angeles being one of the most un-Moscow-like cities imaginable.
However, this began the still-popular trend of combining spirits with ginger beer and calling the resulting cocktail a Mule, preceded by whatever location people most associate with the liquor.
The Irish Mule follows this template by using Irish whiskey as a base. Coincidentally, this tracks closer to earlier variations of the drink, before vodka became the standard. The combination of ingredients that would become known as Mules were originally referred to as bucks, which indicated a ginger beer and citrus base that could be combined with any number of spirits or other mixers.
What is a Mule cocktail?
In the U.S. in the late 1800s, there was a popular non-alcoholic mixture called a Horse’s Neck, which consisted of ginger ale and lemon juice. By the turn of the century, those looking for a punch of liquor would add a measure brandy or whiskey to the combination, purportedly retitling it a “buck,” referencing a horse’s kick. However, after vodka’s rise in the mid-20th century, Mule became the favored title, continuing a longstanding trend of cocktails remaining mostly the same while bartenders change the names every few decades and call themselves pioneers.
Irish whiskey takes well to the Mule formula, as its generally smoother profile, in contrast to the overt corn-based sweetness of bourbon or earthiness of a blended Scotch, creates a lighter and more integrated drink.
While most tend to default to Irish whiskey standards like Jameson, Powers and Bushmills, you can add interesting alternative dimensions to your Irish Mule by branching out.
West Cork makes a blended bottling aged in ex-bourbon casks that gives you the profile of an Irish whiskey with a hint of classic American bourbon finish and is usually priced under $30. Glendalough produces a Double Barrel whiskey that’s mellow and light, allowing it to integrate well with ginger beer’s spice.
For a U.S.-meets-Ireland mash-up, look to Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, a collaboration between the famed New York bar and The Dublin Liberties Distillery—aromatic but with pronounced caramel notes that make it a dream for both sipping neat and using in cocktails. Also in the vein of cross-Atlantic partnerships, Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey is unique in both its predominant use of corn on the mash bill, and aging in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon barrels sourced from Napa Valley.
In copper mug or highball filled with ice, add whiskey and ginger beer. Squeeze in juice of one lime wedge and drop spent lime hull into drink. Stir in glass for 10–15 seconds and garnish with remaining lime wedge.
Last Updated: June 1, 2023