The Moscow Mule with Whiskey: The Story of the Kentucky Mule
We’re not going to get into the history of the Moscow Mule here (you can read all about that in this post) but it’s impossible to talk about the venerable Kentucky Mule without at least mentioning its legendary progenitor. The Moscow Mule rose from the primordial ooze of mixology as a result of pure serendipity around 70 years ago and in fairly short order spread from coast to coast. Just as quickly it began to spawn regional and even international variations including the Moscow Mule with Whiskey, which we know today as the Kentucky Mule.
Why Make a Moscow Mule with Whiskey?
Vodka - the liquor used in a Moscow Mule - is the most basic of all spirits. It’s distilled to a very high proof then diluted with water to achieve the desired strength. As a result it has very little innate flavor. American Whiskies on the other hand have a variety of flavors all their own which bring the “mule” to life in a way vodka simply can’t, which is one reason the Moscow Mule with Whiskey has become so popular. And just for the record: a “mule” drink is defined by the presence of ginger (beer or ale) and some form of citrus juice and not by the presence of vodka. The vodka provides the “Moscow” to the title not the “Mule”.
A Little Background on Those American Whiskies
American whiskies trace their lineage to the scotch first brought to North American shores by Scots-Irish immigrants hundreds of years ago. Since they weren’t always able to procure the barley necessary to create true scotch they often used rye instead. Rye was easier to grow and gave the new liquor its name. People in other areas began creating their own version of scotch using corn instead of barley and this variant evolved into today’s bourbon and Tennessee whiskies. While similar, all three main types of American whiskey exhibit different characteristics.
- Bourbon- Most bourbon comes from Kentucky and all bourbon is required to be at least 51% corn. It’s also required to be aged in new, charred oak barrels. This gives the bourbon its distinctive coloring and flavor. The origins of the name “bourbon” make for a lively debate, though no real consensus has ever been reached on the topic.
- Tennessee Whiskey- Tennessee whiskey is bourbon subjected to one additional production step where it’s filtered through charcoal from sugar maple trees in what’s called the “Lincoln County Process.” The resulting sweet whiskey is preferred by many aficionados for its taste and drinkability; though the LCP removes it from the “bourbon” category of distilled spirits.
- Rye Whiskey- As bourbon must be distilled from at least 51% corn, so rye whiskey must be distilled from at least 51% rye cereal. Unlike its cousins, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, rye is typically more bitter with a slight peppery air to it. After nearly being wiped off the cultural map by prohibition rye had a long road back to the widespread acceptance it enjoys today.
American whiskies must also exhibit other core characteristics related to aroma, taste and alcohol by volume. In addition only water may be added to the final product to achieve desired proofs.
A Mule is Born: The Moscow Mule Meets Kentucky Bourbon
he Kentucky Mule drink was made possible by the development of those regional whiskies three centuries ago and the creation of the Moscow Mule by Los Angeles pub owner Jack Morgan in the 1940s. As the popularity of that drink spread others began to explore the possibilities of swapping out vodka - which most Americans had little affinity for - with the aforementioned regional spirits.
Over time all manner of variation on the Moscow Mule surfaced including the Mexican Mule (made with Tequila), the Jamaican Mule (made with rum) and the subject of this article, the Moscow Mule with Whiskey or Kentucky Mule, made with good old Kentucky bourbon. The distinctive copper cup that made its debut with the Moscow Mule followed the drink even as it morphed into the regional variations and remains one of the mule's trademark attributes. Some of the best Kentucky bourbons for making a Kentucky Mule are:
- Jim Beam- Produced since 1795 Jim Beam is one of the best selling brands of bourbon in the world today. In 1933 James Beam rebuilt his family’s business from the ashes of prohibition and the bourbon was renamed in his honor.
- Maker’s Mark- This small batch bourbon has been around since the mid 50s. The bourbon is aged for 6 years and red winter wheat is used instead of rye in the mash which results in a smoother taste.
- Bulleit Bourbon- The opposite of Maker’s Mark, Bulleit bourbon is distinguished by the relatively high rye content of its mash (nearly 28%). Bulleit bourbon is also known for its light amber color and is prized for its strong bite and spicy air.
Ingredients of the Kentucky Mule
Now that you have some background on the drink, its origins and variations and have procured the all-important copper cup it’s time to step up to the bar and take a swing at making your own Kentucky Mule cocktail. Besides the copper cup here’s what you’ll need...
- 2 oz of Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark or Bulleit Bourbon
- Chilled Ginger Beer
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- Mint sprigs
- Ice cubes
The Kentucky Mule Recipe
- Pour the Bourbon into your copper cup (highball glass will do)
- Add the lime juice
- Add ice cubes
- Add chilled ginger beer
- Tear and rub mint sprigs then add
- Stir lightly and enjoy!
As you acclimate yourself to the joys of the Moscow Mule with Whiskey you can adjust the proportions according to your own tastes, but no matter how you fine-tune it you’ll have a wonderfully refreshing and tasty variation on the Moscow Mule. You’ll find this is an extremely easy drink to make that’s perfect for warm weather occasions like barbeques and often becomes as much a conversation piece as refreshment; especially if you’re able to find yourself some nice copper Kentucky Mule mugs! Want to really encourage your horse on? Why not get their name engraved on one of our mugs