“Good Ice” and the Moscow Mule

When working on a job it is important to use good materials/ingredients as well as good tools and it isn’t any different in food preparation. Take the Moscow Mule, for instance – you would think it is pretty straight forward, but it isn’t. Starting with the ice: If you don’t have “good ice” it just won’t taste the same. It is a proven fact. My brother-in-law educated me on this a few years ago when he and my sister came to visit and he brought some good-ice and pointed out the difference between what my ice maker made and some he had brought from Empire Cold Storage in Spokane.

Barrel Ice

When I asked my brother-in-law about the story behind “good ice” here is what he said:

“I really don’t know how the clear ice itch started, but I suspect by accident. While living in California I “found” ice that was the barrel type and clear. The ice company that produces that ice is called “Super Ice”. I was amazed at the difference in the taste of a drink, and whatever drink I fixed. So the perfect ice is named Super Ice.

So the “good ice” called Super Ice cannot always be found. Smith’s in Bozeman had it for a while. That’s where we would pick up a bag or so and bring it to your house. They no longer stock Super Ice. 🙁

What I like to see is ice that is close to what Super Ice produces: the barrel type, and crystal clear. If the ice is not crystal clear and has a “fog or cloud” in it that shows that the ice has “air” in it. The “air” will degrade the taste of the drink by adding an unwanted component that will weaken the taste of a drink making it taste flat. Splintered ice and half moon ice is always cloudy.

Barrel ice is hard to find, consistently. Most grocery stores sell ice chips, half moon type, or small cubes. All are NOT clear. Half moon ice sucks. Have you ever tried to take a drink out of a glass with half moon ice. It conflicts with your upper lip…….:)

I buy the ice we use at Frosty Ice. Not at a store but at the Frosty Ice plant in Spokane. I started this a few years ago when, during the “Holiday” that year, I bought frosty Ice at the local grocery store. Their ice bags are not so good at the store because of the way the delivery guys throw the bags around causing the ice to splinter. So I called the owner of Frosty Ice and made a “complaint” (nicely) to him. He invited me to the plant for a few complimentary bags off the conveyor. I stopped by there and had a discussion with him and he understood what the issue was. Not that he was going to do anything about it. He had his foreman take me on a tour of the plant and then he was going to give me 8-20 lb bags of ice as a good move. What the h… am I going to do with all that ice…..so, we decided on two bags.

The ice isn’t as “good” as Super Ice. But it is the best around.

I’ve been going back to the ice place for over four years now. They keep several bags of “good ice” for me in a separate freezer locker. With the bags just coming off the line they aren’t thrown around although I end up throwing away lots of the splinters, that’s ok. I am now on a first name basis with the owner and the lady at the counter. She knows what I want before I get in the door and she is on your phone to the “guys” for them to bring me a couple 20 lbs of ice, about every two weeks. $2 for a 20 lb bag…:)

Another reason for barrel ice is the larger the ice (barrels) the longer the drink stays fresh. Smaller types of ice will melt faster causing the drink to go flat. The mix that you use in your drink also needs to be cold. A warm mix will cause the ice to melt, causing the drink to go flat. That’s why I always put it in the fridge.”

Now that you know that story behind “Good Ice”, let’s proceed to making a couple of drinks: The basic Moscow Mule and the Cranberry Moscow Mule.

I had not heard of the Moscow Mule until my son came for a visit a few years ago. We went to visit my brother in Helena and stopped by the liquor store there and my son bought a couple of copper mugs and asked me if I had ever had a Moscow Mule (which I hadn’t). When we got back home he made one for me and I found I like it quite a bit! We were surprised to find that the local grocery store even carried Cock ‘n’ Bull ginger beer.

Moscow Mule

2 ounces vodka
1/2  lime – or to taste*
Cold ginger beer
“Good ice”

According to www.chow.com – “The classic Moscow Mule recipe is a vodka-based cocktail with the unusual addition of a ginger beer topped with a wedge of lime. Vodka was still relatively unknown outside Russia and Central Europe in the years following World War II. Heublein president John Martin had recently purchased the Smirnoff name and recipe for his American company, and he was out to promote his new product. As the story goes, Martin stopped off for dinner and drinks at the Cock ’n’ Bull on Sunset Strip, where his friend, owner Jack Morgan, was struggling to sell his homemade ginger beer. Add to the mix another friend who had inherited a large collection of copper mugs—and shake with a massive dose of publicity and a wedge of lime—and you have the Moscow Mule. In one of the most successful marketing ploys in tippling history, Martin combined three seemingly hopeless endeavors into one of the most popular cocktails of the 1950s and early 1960s. He even got stars like Woody Allen to promote his concoction. But as popular as it was, the Moscow Mule has now entered the “endangered species list” and is rarely seen outside of vintage ads in old issues of Playboy magazine. from: Field Guide to Cocktails, by Rob Chirico” (Learn more here.)

Pour the vodka into a copper mug or an iced glass that has been filled about one-third of the way with ice. Squeeze the lime over the vodka, and drop the wedge into the mug. Fill the glass with the ginger beer.

One year a friend of mine brought me a bag of fresh limes that her brother-in-law brought up from Arizona; they have a tree in their back yard so he always brings a box when he comes for a visit and then she is kind enough to share. They were the best tasting limes I have ever had. Once again it proves how important good quality ingredients are when making anything.


Mobile Mule: Substitute 2 ounces light rum for the the vodka.

The story continues………

Christmas of 2015 I went for a visit to my son and new daughter-in-law’s house and for Christmas Eve my son made Holiday Moscow Mules. They too were excellent and he decided they will to be added to their list of Holiday Traditions. (I plan to drink it during the year as well!)

One more thing, they discovered that the convenience store close to their house in Tennessee carries “good ice” and when I flew Delta Airlines to get there and back, they served the barrel shaped ice on the flight as well. (Word is getting out.)

Cranberry Moscow Mule

Fresh lime wedges – to taste
1   solid copper mug
“Good” Ice
2 ounces   gin or vodka – (I used gin)
4-6 ounces   ginger beer
2 ounces   cranberry juice
Frozen cranberries – for garnish
Fresh Rosemary sprig – for garnish

Squeeze the lime into the copper mug. Fill mug with ice and pour gin (or vodka), ginger beer, and cranberry juice over ice. Garnish with cranberries and rosemary sprig. Stir and enjoy! – This recipe I found at www.popsugar.com.

(Disclaimer: You can see that when I made this drink I did not have any “good ice” as it is cloudy and half-moon shaped.;>(


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