Max’s Moscow Mule

See a Bar About a Mule 

A couple of Eugene Weekly’s own head out to sample the venerable cocktail, with mixed results

By Bentley Freeman and Amelia Winkelman 

While the Moscow Mule — with its ginger beer base — might seem new to some, the drink actually dates back to 1940, when, as the story goes, a bar with too much ginger beer, a woman with too many copper mugs and a need to unload some then-unpopular vodka all came together. 

While the tale of the mule (mule because it has a kick, technically the drink is a buck) has some variants, it was originally crafted in West Hollywood, California, at the Cock n’ Bull bar some 84 years ago, and the drink, according to the Eugene Weekly interns we sent out to sample it, stands the test of time. 

A buck is a cocktail that contains a spirit, citrus and either ginger ale or ginger beer. Ginger beer has more of that kick — which is also why it wasn’t popular with 1940s Americans who preferred sweeter ginger ale. Vodka, that tasteless clear liquor, was relatively unknown to the whiskey-drinking public, but when the two came together with a squeeze of lime, the Moscow Mule came to stay.

Downtown Sips

Trying a new drink is either ecstatically rewarding or an inconvenient disappointment. When it’s time for me to spice up my drinks rotation, I base my decision on visual allure rather than my preferred alcohol and mixers. I despise vodka, and I’m indifferent to ginger, but the charming copper cup a Moscow Mule comes in makes it irresistible. 

At Jameson’s Bar, the bartender, Jeff Curry, asks me if I want their house vodka. It’s from Rose City Distilling. He pours Fentimans ginger beer and a spritz of lime juice over the ice and liquor, then slides the sleek Absolut copper mug toward me. I take three sips before deciding the bitter, tangy ginger fizz has delightfully surprised me.

A block away, at The Barn Light bar, my mule comes in a large hammered copper mug. This drink is sweeter and less gingery. Sky McAdory stands behind the bar and tells me they use ginger ale, at least for now. McAdory says Barn Light has its own version of a Moscow Mule — an Apple jack, with Jack Daniels, apple cider, ginger beer and cinnamon. I don’t feel up to trying another new drink tonight, but next weekend, I know where I’m going. — Amelia Winkelman

Eugene’s Collegiate Moscow Mules

There is only one true god of cocktails. Nothing quite like a mix of ginger beer, a dash of lime juice and vodka gets my hand eagerly drawing back the copper tumbler to my mouth.

But what is the best one in Eugene? I had to go to the source, and who drinks more than anybody else? College students. “Max’s makes a pretty good mule, I gotta say,” University of Oregon student Dylan Luna tells me, “I think it’s better than Rennies.”

UO student Lupita “Pita” Ruiz concurs. “At Rennies it tastes like juice, but at Max’s it tastes better,” she says.

So I began my quest, taking a light stroll to Rennie’s Landing to test out those claims.

Now, be warned: the following review might not be 100 percent accurate. I did have several drinks before my first Moscow Mule of the night, and while I do not believe my drunkenness impacted the taste or drinking experience — I find it important to mention nonetheless.

Rennie’s Moscow Mule, while quite refreshing at 11 at night, tasted more like a soda water base instead of ginger beer — more like a vodka soda with a shit ton of lime. “Refreshing, considering how drunk I am,” says drunk me that night.

Two out of five stars. Also, I walked home.

Max’s Tavern had a stellar Moscow Mule. To put it plainly, it lived up to the hype. Delectable ginger beer with spice but no bite, just perfect. A couple squirts of lime with tang but no sting, just perfect. The right Moscow Mule for a college student?


“A little bit less ice [than Rennies], a little bit more flavor,” my inebriated self mused.

But I have to knock one point off for the presentation. I was excited to drink my beverage out of a copper tumbler, and yet I had to drink it out of a glass.

Four out of five stars. — Bentley Freeman

Find Jameson’s Bar at 115 W. Broadway, 541-485-9913; The Barn Light at 924 Willamette Street, 541-726-0313; Rennie’s Landing at 1214 Kincaid Street, 541-687-0600 and Max’s Tavern at 550 E. 13th Avenue, 541-349-8986.

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