As a disclaimer, the Moscow Mule is the first and will probably be the last vodka drink I feature here. With a name that translates literally as "little water," this colorless and tasteless spirit doesn't add anything to cocktails other than alcohol content. Too many other delicious products exist to focus much energy on a substance that is renowned for its ability to blend in.
Ranting aside, the Moscow Mule is almost solely responsible for making vodka popular. Back in 1934, Rudolf Kunnett bought the rights to a French vodka brand called Smirnoff. Five years later, employee Jack Martin convinced the Heublein Inc. corporation to buy out Kunnett. They then bottled all of the remaining stock with whiskey corks from another unsuccessful venture. Despite its popularity with a certain faction of day drinkers, the product still hadn't caught on by 1946.
At this time, Martin started hanging out in a Hollywood joint called the Cock 'n' Bull Pub. The bar's owner was having an equally bad time trying to sell the spicy ginger beer he had been bottling. When both ingredients were dumped into a copper mug (made by yet another struggling businessman) and a lime wedge squeezed on top, the Moscow Mule was born. Topped with a meaningless but catchy name, this mixed drink was marketed well and helped popularize vodka.
Though we have this drink to blame for the increasingly sweet and artificially fruity vodka drinks that followed, this simple and refreshing concoction may just serve as the gateway to drinking a Southside or Tom Collins. If that's the case, this vodka drink may just be able to cancel out a little bit of the harm it's done to the popular palate.
.5 oz lime juice
2 oz vodka
Squeeze or pour lime juice into a chilled Collins glass or copper mug. Add a few cubes of ice, then add vodka and, if desired, a splash of simple syrup. Fill to the brim with ginger beer and lightly stir to combine.