Santa Barbara’s J.J. Resnick is building an empire of copper based on family lore that his great-grandmother contributed the now iconic metallic mug to the Moscow Mule cocktail formula. As the story goes, the Russian-raised Sophie Berezinski was told by her husband to get rid of the many mugs she’d made with her father in the motherland and brought to America. She knew the guy who’d just bought Smirnoff vodka, and their friend owned the Cock’n Bull in Hollywood, where he made ginger beer. The trio threw their then-unpopular ingredients together around 1941, and the vodka-ginger-beer-lime-on-ice-in-copper-mug sensation was born.
While on a trip to Asia sourcing goods for his prior company, which made gear for service animals, Resnick walked into a shop filled with Moscow Mule mugs. But they were the cheap copper-plated versions, not the ones made from real copper that Berezinksi championed. “I made it my mission to source the best copper in the world and go back to the original design,” explained Resnick, whose Moscow Mule Copper Company has been going gangbusters ever since, selling thousands of mugs to bars and cocktail lovers across the globe.
This month, as part of the drink’s 75th anniversary celebration, he’s releasing a recipe book called Mulehead that features anecdotes and specialized recipes from bartenders all over the world. “We’re going to start touring around to each of these different bartenders and, through Facebook Live, showing them making their cocktail at their bar,” said Resnick. He’s also putting the finishing touches on a “Muleseum” in Las Vegas, launching MoscowMule.com as a sharing and content platform, and releasing Grandma Sophie’s Crazy Copper Cleaner, a secret nontoxic solution for keeping the mugs shiny.
The reverie comes to the Goodland Hotel on April 14, when Resnick will sign books, demo the copper cleaner (which works on many other items, from golf clubs to boats), and give away free drinks to whomever buys a mug. He’s billing the event as a “Nochella,” since attendees will be missing at least one weekend of Coachella, and inviting people to bring their mugs down for a polish, which proved wildly popular during a recent Vegas event.
As to one persistent online troll’s claims that his family story is bunk? It’s annoying to Resnick, but he’s not sure how to respond, nor can his lawyers find the actual human being. “This is my family history,” he said, equating it to the creation stories behind such brands as Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff. “I’ve been hearing my parents and grandparents talk about it since I was 5 years old, and the ancestry records show that she was in all the same exact spots. I don’t know what else to say.” Luckily for Resnick, his copper business remains booming.
4∙1∙1 J.J. Resnick will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Moscow Mule at a book-signing of his recipe book Mulehead on Friday, April 14, 4-8 p.m., at the Goodland Hotel (5650 Calle Real, Goleta). Call 964-6241 or visit moscowcopper.com.