The Difference Between a Buck and a Mule Cocktail

by | Apr 1, 2019 | Culture, Mixology

Everyone loves a good Moscow Mule. On a warm Summer’s evening, the refreshing ginger and zesty fresh lime juice flavors tantalize the tastebuds. There are dozens of Moscow Mule variations, each with their own spin on this bartender favorite. The original Moscow Mule, for example, is traditionally served in a copper mug.

Moscow Mules and their variations fall under the broad cocktail category of “bucks”, or drinks prepared with ginger beers, ginger ales, and citrus juices to complement a wide range of liquors. In fact, the first buck cocktail was probably created when someone added a shot of Irish whiskey to a non-alcoholic beverage called a Horse’s neck (ginger beer and lemon juice). From there, it was only a matter of time before mixologists created their own refreshing variations on the classic cocktail – each with a focus on the bright flavor of fresh ginger and the tangy nature of lime, orange, and lemon juices.

For professional bartenders, the only real difference between a Moscow Mule and a buck is the spirit chosen to mix with ginger and citrus. In the next sections, we will explore some of our favorite mule and buck recipes which are ideal for your next gathering or special event.


Buck Cocktail Variations

Bucks are versatile and refreshing, particularly in the warmer spring and summer months. At home or in your favorite watering hole, try mules with different spirits, garnishes, and ingredients to come up with your own unique cocktails… Just add ice to the mixing glass to get your cocktails ice cold before serving. Here is a deeper look at some of our favorite buck cocktail variations…

Vodka Buck

Vodka forms the foundation of this buck variety. It is mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer and fresh citrus juice.

Whiskey Buck

The whiskey buck was probably the very first buck created in a tavern (per our introduction). As the name indicates, the liquor used in this variety is whiskey. The type of whiskey used is only limited by your imagination; Scotch, Irish whisky, Canadian whisky, and American whiskey are all popular choices.

Kentucky Buck

The Kentucky Buck is a variation that specifically uses bourbon (not another whiskey) as the spirit. From there, lime juice and ginger beer complete the bubbly cocktail. The drink is sometimes known as the Horsefeather and is just as frequently referred to as a “Kentucky Mule”. Bartenders often garnish the Buck with a sprig of mint – a nod to the classic mint julep.

Barbados Buck

Dark rum is the spirit of choice for this Caribbean-themed cocktail. In place of a copper vessel used in the Moscow Mule, bartenders may use a highball glass or collins glass to serve this complex and sweet beverage.

Moscow Mule Variations

Starting with vodka, ginger beer, and lime in copper mugs; the Moscow Mule has not been immune to creative variations on a favorite. Bartenders around the world prepare delicious choices with additional flavors and flourishes; these drinks sure do quench a thirst on a hot Summer evening. Here are some of our favorites…

Mexican Mule

The Mexican Mule uses tequila instead of vodka. In some areas, mezcal is the preferred spirit (for a bit of extra spice). This modern classic is popular in the western and southwestern regions of the U.S.

New Orleans Mule

The Crescent City is home to this variation, which substitutes vodka for bourbon whiskey and adds coffee liqueur, to make a distinct cocktail that thrills everyone who tries it.

Jamaican Mule

The Jamaican Mule drink combines spicy ginger beer, a squeeze of lime, and spiced rum. Other rums can be used; one of the most distinguished is the use of Gosling’s black seal rum.

Additional Ingredients for Mule and Buck Recipes

As shown in our previous sections, the mule/buck is a versatile favorite. Whether you prefer drinking more traditional cocktails or want to try something new, consider these additions: Bitters, Brandy, Gin, Apple cider, Lime wedge in place of citrus juices

One of the most unique bar variations is the Mamie Taylor, which substitutes vodka or gin for Scotch. The Mamie Taylor is not for the faint of heart; the smoky bite of Scotch complements the traditional mule/buck flavors.

Ginger and Lime Juice: Similarities between Mules and Bucks

Mules and bucks both depend on the punch delivered by ginger and lime. Whether you prefer the beer variety or simply swap for an ale, the gingery flavor is essential. Lime juice can be substituted with other fresh citrus juices, or can even be substituted with syrups made from fresh raspberries (or strawberry simple syrup).

Ginger Beer or Ginger Ale?

After reviewing Moscow Mule and Buck recipes, you may be wondering “what’s the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale? If you substitute an ale or ginger beer in a cocktail recipe, will anyone notice?

Ginger beer is traditionally made with fresh ginger. The drink is characterized by a spicy ginger flavor and a bubbly fizz. Just like regular beer, ginger beer is brewed and fermented. Most ginger beers on the market are non-alcoholic, making them an ideal mixer for the discerning bartender.

Ginger ale, on the other, hand, tends to be sweeter and more mildly flavored than ginger beer. Quality ale uses natural ginger flavoring, although cheaper brands may use artificial flavoring. Ginger ale is essentially a soft drink, just like colas. It, too, is a great mixer for sweeter cocktails, where a subtle ginger flavor adds character.