The Moscow Mule

My latest entry in the continuing series of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenges: The Moscow Mule. This one centers around the theme of titling your story after a cocktail, hence the name. Also, only 500 words instead of 750.

If you want to skip the story and just get the cocktail recipe, scroll down.

The Moscow Mule was not what I expected at all.

I first met the man in exactly the way one meets members of the Russian mob, in an abandoned warehouse out by the airport. It just as easily could have been an airline hangar out by a pier or a meat locker with an unmarked white van outside. The Russians liked playing to type and I was not disappointed by these Russians. Just the Moscow Mule. HE was different.

He gave his name as Ivan. Perfect, I thought. Among the hulking goons in dark suits, Ivan was an inscrutable, nondescript little man. He didn’t quite have a full head of hair but he wasn’t bald either. Not too tall, not too short. Not too skinny, not too fat. The kind of man you’d have trouble picking out of a lineup.

We traded discrete bits of information – the hows, whys, whens, and whatfors – and left each other to finish our business. I couldn’t help wondering why we’d needed to meet in person at all, but I figured the Russians wanted to see my face in case things went sour.

I went back home, packed my bag, stashed the cash and waited by the phone. I did as I was told and I was sure – had been assured and reassured – that Ivan was doing likewise in his undisclosed location.

At 10:15 that night I left my rented room and walked down the stairs. Nodded to the night doorman as I’d been instructed and had him hail me a cab. I made sure to make eye contact with every stranger on the street.

I sold my story to the cabbie. Pretty standard stuff, really. Big business deal. Lots of profit and intrigue and excitement after I caught my big flight to a bigger city for the biggest deal of my life. Big deal.

I followed a similar zigzag rigamarole with the ticketing agent and the TSA agent and the gate agent and anyone within earshot at the terminal. I made a lot of happy noise, but nothing too boisterous.

Is this seat taken?
No, go ahead.

Ivan sat down next to me just when he should have. Not too early, not too late. Not quite frowning, not quite grinning.

Next I recited Ivan’s clipped Russian instructions in my head:

Bow down to tie shoe; slide case to left-hand side.
Turn right to shield cough, finish tying shoe.
Look up, meet eyes, nod.
I am leaving now.

I swallowed hard and I could feel myself start to sweat in a rush of flushed blush to my face and forehead. Blood beats inside my eardrums and I miss the beginning of boarding by the time I’m able to quiet the noise in my brain.

I rise, grab Ivan’s case, and hand over my ticket.

The Moscow Mule was not what I expected at all. He was too perfect.

My Moscow Mule:

In a highball glass combine the following over ice:

  • 2 shots Vodka
  • 1 shot Rose’s Lime
  • 4 shots Ginger Beer (NOT Ginger Ale)

Sip and enjoy, especially once the weather gets a little warmer. The spice of the ginger and the tartness of the lime work really well together.

The Moscow Mule actually has a pretty interesting history. It’s very prototypically American in its use of marketing and hucksterism:

I find more truth in the story told by Morgan’s head bartender, Wes Price, who maintained that the drink was fashioned sometime in 1941 in an effort to offload otherwise unsellable goods. According to Price, Martin had imposed a shipment of Smirnoff on the Cock ‘n’ Bull and the cases sat fallow in the cellar, crowded against the dusty jugs of ginger beer that Morgan had ordered in an earlier fit of misguided enthusiasm. “I just wanted to clean out the basement,” Price would say of creating the Moscow Mule. “I was trying to get rid of a lot of dead stock.” The first one he mixed he served to the actor Broderick Crawford. “It caught on like wildfire,” Price bragged.

Purists will want to use Smirnoff, but any vodka brand will do.

And for the folks who won’t click through to read the whole story (or the slug above), you have The Moscow Mule to thank/blame for all the vodka cocktails that have come since, mostly fueled by clever marketing and celebrity endorsement (Hello, Cosmopolitans on Sex and the City!).

If you don’t have ginger beer handy you can always use just vodka & lime to make Betty Draper’s cocktail of choice: the gimlet.

Happy Drinking!

8 thoughts on “The Moscow Mule

  1. Straight and to the point just like the drink. No effin around. Just got down to business. I just picture this big hulking Russian speaking broken English only when he has to. His mental note in scrawled pen just like the clipped voice.

  2. Thanks for the comments!

    Quinn, I actually wrote over 800 words for this story over at and spent 30 minutes paring it down to just under 500 for the blog post.

    Bob, I’m a big fan of Gimlets & Moscow Mules, but only once the weather gets a bit warmer and always in moderation.

    Anthony, I didn’t want the voice to be too trite but it was also a great way to conserve precious words. I only had 500!

    Again, thanks!

  3. @Neliza, you should give the cocktail a try. It’s very refreshing, especially if you like spritzy, spicy drinks.

    Very much like an apertif or even a sparkling wine.

  4. You got it! It’s great to see what everyone comes up with and how you work with what you got. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back and widdled things down. Always ends up for the better!

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