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Why is The Kentucky Mule Called the Kentucky Mule?

Kentucky Mule

The Kentucky Mule is a cocktail made with bourbon, ginger beer, bitters, and lime juice. The drink is named after Kentucky, its origin. Either way, it's called a Kentucky Mule because of its muddled black walnut flavor and spicy ginger. The story behind how the drink got its name has been passed down by word-of-mouth through generations of bartenders until it became legendary and almost impossible to verify. It's also unclear how this became synonymous with mules that deliver coal — perhaps because they were originally made with bourbon instead of gin. Before the invention of electricity, mules were used to drag coal along a narrow rail track up four floors. And by the time they reached the top floor, they were exhausted and out of breath. So, the workers would rest them before being called upon again to carry more coal. Hence a Kentucky Mule, as a restorative after work. Today, you can find the Kentucky Mule at all kinds of places. It's in cocktails across several States and at countless bars worldwide. Some variations include adding a little lemon juice, lime juice, or orange juice to add complexity and even more flavor. Before being mixed with gin and other flavors, it's best served up straight from its bottle by a wise bartender on tap behind an American bar, a true mule of class.

Kentucky Mule Recipe

  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 ounces ginger beer
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime
  • Five dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Mint sprig for garnish


  • Fill a tall glass about 2/3 full of ice cubes.
  • Pour some ginger beer in the glass (about 2 ounces)
  • Pour bourbon over it and stir.
  • Cut lime into wedges, add them to the glass and stir again.
  • Add your favorite bourbon from the bottle, add 4-5 dashes of bitters and stir away!
  • You can add additional garnish if you like. A single mint sprig, a twist of orange peel, or cherry would all fit nicely.

Understanding your Kentucky Mule Ingredients

Bourbon and Ginger

The Kentucky Mule celebrates bourbon's ability to blend with other flavors. Ginger is a well-known and classic partner for bourbon, and the two work in perfect harmony. Ginger has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for stomach problems. It is also for cooking and flavoring for many centuries. The taste of ginger complements the smoky bourbon flavor and compliments any other flavor added to the drink. Ginger is a root and a rhizome that you can purchase at most grocery stores and specialty food stores. Most people know ginger as being quite spicy, but the taste is not so intense when used as a spice. Rather, the flavor is light and refreshing. The use of fresh ginger root keeps the drink from becoming too overpowering.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a sweetener made with water and sugar with a higher corn-based percentage than regular sugar. You can dilute it with water for any other alcoholic beverage you might want to make at home or in your bar. It is also a natural preservative and can be stored for long periods.

Ginger Beer and Bourbon

Ginger beer is a product that is available everywhere; it can be found in some supermarkets, bars, many grocery stores, and some specialty food stores. It has come a long way from the original recipe; a mixture of water, sugar, lemon juice, ginger root, and cane sugar. It works well with bourbon and is often used as a mixer or in cocktails such as the Kentucky Mule. The Kentucky Mule is traditionally made with bourbon, lime juice, and ginger beer, but many other variations exist. You can substitute bourbon with any other whiskey or even gin if preferred. You can also substitute ginger beer with ginger ale or homemade ginger syrup. Although ingredients can vary slightly depending on what you prefer, the most traditional version of the Kentucky Mule has bourbon as its base liquor. You may think that the recipe for your favorite cocktail is a simple one, with just a few ingredients. But there are many different variations and flavors besides bourbon and ginger ale. Some people like to add a slice of orange to the drink along with a few fruit bits and a cucumber slice or two. It would help if you shook it before serving it in your chilled copper mug. You don't need to use frozen glasses, but they help chill the drink faster while giving you a smoother taste to enjoy. In addition to adding fruit and cucumber slices in your Kentucky Mule, you can also use the garnish in other ways. You may also garnish with a lime wedge or orange slice or even a strawberry or cherry if you want. The Kentucky Mule is a delicious drink that you can customize by using fresh ingredients. It's pretty simple to make, and the flavor is excellent. As a result, it's always a hit at social gatherings and parties. This cocktail is trendy in Kentucky, where the locals drink with local ice in frozen mugs. An adequately made drink is served in a chilled copper mug, creating the perfect balance of flavors and giving you a pleasant taste for many years.

What Other Variations to the Kentucky Mule?

One of the most popular variations of this drink is to use whiskey instead of bourbon. Whiskey makes a tasty cocktail, but it also adds a different taste. It's still delicious and refreshing, but some may find that it's too strong for their tastes. If you want to use other liquors in your Kentucky Mule, then you can experiment with different brands until you find the right flavor you like best. It's important to remember that certain liquors will make it taste more potent, so use caution when mixing the ingredients. You can also make this drink with gin or rum instead of bourbon. You can also use a premade cocktail punch with whiskey if you don't have any of these liquors on hand. The recipes for this drink depend on the kind of liquor you decide to use. You'll need to try a few out and see which one works best for you. If there are different liquors that you want to add, remember that the other ingredients should be equal parts each time.

Mixing Your Kentucky Mule

If you want to enjoy a Kentucky Mule, you must do it properly. This means preparing it with fresh ingredients and making a smooth cocktail that's perfectly balanced. When mixing this drink at home, it's essential to use fresh fruit to get the perfect flavor. The fruit will add a different kind of flavor than anything else you've used before. As this drink contains a little bit of alcohol, always make sure that you make it with the best quality ingredients. When taste is not the number one concern, you probably should choose something different.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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