Cucumber Basil Moscow Mule (Low Sugar and Refreshing)

cucumber-basil-moscow-mule-(low-sugar-and-refreshing)

Here’s the perfect Moscow Mule recipe (make it a cocktail or a mocktail) for when you want to cool down and kick back with a just-right sipper! We love this version of the traditional Moscow Mule that features refreshing ingredients like cucumber, basil, and fresh ginger. Plus, use our simple swap to cut back on sugar and get a pop of flavor all at the same time!

This recipe was originally posted June 5, 2018; Updated June 22, 2022.

a cucumber basil moscow mule served in copper cup.

A refreshing moscow Mule recipe for summer

It is believed that the Moscow Mule cocktail was first invented in the 1940s in a bar in Manhattan, most likely as a clever and new way to clear out a high inventory of ginger beer and vodka in the bar’s basement. But the drink didn’t really catch on until it was embraced by the Hollywood elite of the time, who were photographed holding cool copper cups. Suddenly, Moscow Mules were the IT drink of the 1940s, and their popularity hasn’t waned over the decades.

With the warming effect of the ginger beer, Moscow Mules are just as appropriate in cooler seasons as they are on the hot days of summer. We think this Cucumber-Basil Mule is perfect version to enjoy year-round, but it tastes exceptionally good on those scorching summer days when you want to sip on something light and fresh.

Two copper cups filled with cucumber basil Moscow mule cocktail

Moscow mules Ingredients (What’s In a Moscow Mule?)

While there are many variations, the basic ingredients in a classic Moscow Mule are vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. Here are the ingredients you need to make this Moscow Mule recipe that features cucumber and basil.

  • cucumber – you’ll need a few thick slices of a hothouse cucumber, plus more for garnish; may also use English cucumbers or cocktail cucumbers
  • basil – use a few springs of fresh basil, or sub in fresh mint
  • fresh ginger – we love to use fresh ginger that is sliced from a knob of fresh ginger (keep any extra in your freezer)
  • lime juice – you’ll need two fresh limes (or 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of fresh lime juice)
  • vodka – use any favorite brand of unflavored vodka (we like Tito’s because it’s always gluten free and super smooth; others swear by Smirnoff vodka or a local brand); may omit for a mocktail
  • kombucha – we love to use ginger flavored kombucha as a lower-sugar alternative to ginger beer. Look for a ginger kombucha that has 6 grams or less of sugar per 12 ounces, such as GT’s Organic Gingerade Kombucha, Revive Kombucha (available at Thrive Market), or Health-Ade Kombucha; may also use ginger beer or ginger ale in place of the kombucha
  • sparkling water – the addition of sparkling water creates just the right carbonation and refreshment in this lower-sugar Moscow mule recipe. Use any favorite brand of unflavored sparkling water, such as Waterloo, San Pellegrino, or LaCroix. For a mocktail, simply omit the vodka and increase the amount of sparkling water
Overhead view copper cups filled with cucumber basil Moscow Mules garnished with lime slices and cucumber ribbons.

Moscow Mule Mugs (How to serve a Classic Mule)

Moscow Mules are traditionally serve in copper mugs or copper cups, which takes on the cold temperature of the liquid inside. If you have them, using a copper mug adds to the overall experience of enjoying this lower-sugar Moscow Mule recipe. We prefer copper mugs that are plated with nickel or stainless steal inside the lip of the cup so you don’t get an unpleasant tingling feeling on your lips or the risk of copper leeching into your drink. But you may be wondering: Do you have to serve a Moscow Mule in a copper cup? Of course not! If you don’t have copper mugs, you can still enjoy this lighter Moscow Mule recipe. Instead, use a highball glass, collins glass, or any short glass or metal cup.

Overhead view copper cup with cucumber and basil being muddled with wooden muddler.

How to make a Low-Sugar mule in 3 Steps

One of the great things about a simple classic cocktail like the Moscow mule is that you don’t need any special equipment to make one. Just a spoon for stirring and a knife for cutting the fresh ingredients. Here’s how to make one today:

  1. Place 2 cucumber slices, and 2 basil leaves in the bottom of each of four copper mugs or other short glasses. Using a cocktail muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon gently muddle the ingredients together. Tip: You just want to bruise them up a bit, not make a mash.
  2. Fill each mug ½ full with ice. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 ounce vodka to each mug.
  3. Add 4 ounces ginger beer to each mug then top each one with sparkling water. Stir gently. Garnish each mug with a cucumber slice and basil leaves.

More Lower-Sugar Cocktails To Try

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Can You Make A Moscow Mule with Kombucha?

You bet you can! And we show you how to do it right here. By swapping in kombucha for the ginger beer, you can cut out many grams of added sugar. And you can also get a gut-health boost from the live probiotics in kombucha. Some of our favorite brands of lower-sugar kombucha are GT’s Organic Gingerade Kombucha, Revive Citrus Ginger Kombucha (available at Thrive Market), and Health-Ade Ginger Lemon Kombucha.

If you prefer ginger beer, you can use that instead of kombucha. We think some of the best ginger brands are Q Ginger Beer, Reed’s Ginger Beef (use Reed’s Stronger for a spicy ginger beer), and Fever Tree Ginger Beer.

A hand holding a copper cup handle filled with cucumber basil Moscow Mule garnished with lime and cucumber

Variations on the Classic Moscow Mule Recipe

When you’ve got a great base (like vodka, ginger beer, and lime), it’s easy and fun to play with variations on the classic recipe. We think our Moscow Mule with Cucumber and Basil is a super refreshing and light take on the original. Here are some other versions that have gained popularity.

  • Kentucky Mule – swap bourbon whiskey for the vodka
  • Mexican Mule – use tequila instead of vodka
  • Gin-Gin Mule – featuring gin instead of vodka, plus mint and simple syrup
  • Dark and Stormy Cocktail – use dark rum in place of the vodka
  • Irish Mule – features Irish whiskey instead of vodka
  • Jamaican Mule – swap in spiced rum in place of the vodka
  • American Mule – an America Mule specifically uses the brand Tito’s Handmade vodka
  • Flavored Mules – try experimenting with fresh watermelon, berries, citrus juices, fresh herbs (such as a sprig of mint or thyme), apple cider, or cherry juice

How to make It A Mocktail

Like many cocktails, you can leave out the booze in this Moscow Mule recipe if you don’t drink alcohol or would like a Whole30-friendly cocktail. Even without the vodka, this flavorful Cucumber Basil Mule is still incredibly delicious and refreshing and oh, so gorgeous served up in big just like the real deal.

To make a Moscow Mule mocktail, simply omit the vodka and add another ounce of sparkling water to each mug.

Two copped mugs filled with cucumber basil moscow mules.

Recipe

Cucumber Basil Moscow Mule Recipe

Enjoy this refreshing and low-sugar version of the popular Moscow Mule, which features the fresh flavors of cucumber, basil, and ginger. Cut back on sugar by swapping in ginger kombucha instead of ginger beer.

Prep: 5-10 minsTotal: 5-10 mins

Ingredients

  • 12 cucumber slices 
  • 8 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 16 ounces ginger beer (may substitute ginger kombucha*)
  • 4 ounces vodka (omit for a mocktail and replace with additional sparkling water)
  • 12 ounces sparkling water
  • Ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Place 2 cucumber slices, and 2 basil leaves in the bottom of each of four copper mugs or other short glasses.
  2. Using a cocktail muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon gently muddle the ingredients together. Tip: You just want to bruise them up a bit, not make a mash.
  3. Fill each mug ½ full with ice. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 ounce vodka to each mug.
  4. Add 4 ounces ginger beer to each mug then top each one with sparkling water. Stir gently. Garnish each mug with a cucumber slice and basil leaves.

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Notes

Some ginger beer brands we like are Q Ginger Beer, Reed’s Stronger Ginger Beef (for a more spicy mule), and Fever Tree Ginger Beer.

* If you prefer kombucha, you can use that instead of ginger beer. A few we like are GT’s Organic Gingerade Kombucha, Revive Citrus Ginger Kombucha (available at Thrive Market), and Health-Ade Ginger Lemon Kombucha.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1 mule
  • Calories: 94
  • Fat: 0 g
  • (Sat Fat: 0 g)
  • Sodium: 11 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 9 g
  • (Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 2 g)
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Dietary

© The Real Food Dietitians

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A copper cup filled with Cucumber Basil Moscow Mule garnished with lime slice, cucumber ribbon, and fresh basil.

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Jessica Beacom

Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her husband and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time, she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, and camping out under the stars.

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