moscow mule in copper mug with ice cubes on black bar

Kentucky Mule Recipe: Learn to Make This Refreshing Classic

The Moscow Mule has been a staple in many bars for several decades. While its popularity comes and goes, you can almost always find copper cups at your local sports bar or restaurant. 

While the Moscow Mule was created in the United States, despite its name, several variations have appeared across the country. Each state, and even bar, has its own unique spin on what a Moscow Mule should be. 

One great example is the Kentucky Mule, which began in Kentucky as a variation of the Moscow Mule. So, the same copper cups, but a different and unique flavor.

The major difference between the Kentucky Mule and the Moscow Mule is that the Kentucky Mule substitutes vodka with bourbon for a spicier and more pronounced taste. In fact, most people enjoy the Kentucky Mule because the bourbon cuts through the ginger beer better.

That said, everyone has a different flavor palate, so it’s important to learn more about the Kentucky Mule. Read on to learn about how this mule variation tastes, what makes it special, and how you should enjoy it.

What Exactly Is a Kentucky Mule: An Overview

A Kentucky Mule is a staple drink in Kentucky but it’s not as common outside of the state. Regardless, it’s quickly becoming a unique alternative to the Moscow Mule for people who want a drink that packs more or a punch. 

What gives the Kentucky Mule its punch is the bourbon whiskey that it contains. Instead of vodka, the bourbon slices through the fruity tastes of citrus and ginger; this gives it a spicy flavor that whiskey lovers will enjoy.

You might hear of a Kentucky Mule in a few ways, which is also important to note because it might be called a Bourbon Mule, Whiskey Mule, or something else along those lines. Many bars and sports bars will also have their unique spin on the name, so make sure you ask for the ingredients.

Aside from the name and flavor, the Kentucky Mule is a simple drink. It’s not something that comes out at classy events often, and if you’re too far from Kentucky, you might not be able to find one.

What Does a Kentucky Mule Taste Like?

A Kentucky Mule tastes like a Moscow Mule but with hints of bourbon instead of vodka. When you take a sip, the first flavor notes you’ll notice are ginger and citrus notes, but then the taste will start to turn spicy as hints of bourbon get through. Depending on the type of bourbon, you may notice hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and other flavors.

In some cases, people will also use other types of whiskey in a Kentucky Mule, which may result in other flavors that pair more with the citrus and ginger beer.

What Is the Alcohol Content of a Kentucky Mule?

The alcohol content of a Kentucky Mule varies based on the type of alcohol in the mule, which usually comes down to the type of bourbon. Most types of bourbon will have an alcohol content that ranges from 40-50% ABV. 

Ginger beer used for Kentucky Mules typically doesn’t have any alcohol in it (or is less than 1% ABV). For this reason, adding lime and ginger beer waters down the bourbon, which brings the drink’s average ABV to 20-30%. Ultimately, it comes down to how heavy you are with the bourbon pour.

What Is the History of a Kentucky Mule?

The Kentucky Mule is a variation of the Moscow Mule. This means that it shares a history with the Moscow Mule until it splintered off into its own drink. Therefore, it’s important to look at the brief history of the Moscow Mule before looking at the specific details of the Kentucky Mule.

The Moscow Mule hit the scene in the 1940s. It originated in a Los Angeles bar, the bartender creating the cocktail to boost vodka sales at the bar. 

While the name Moscow Mule wasn’t coined until the 1940s, that doesn’t mean that the drink was brand new. In fact, the combination of ginger beer and vodka has been a thing since the 1800s. That said, the Moscow Mule was still considered innovative for its time.

Moscow Mule aside, the Kentucky Mule came into play as a variation, but the history on this drink is shrouded in mystery. It’s believed that the Kentucky Mule wasn’t far behind the Moscow Mule, also coming on the scene in the 1940s. Similar to the Moscow Mule, the Kentucky Mule variation was likely put together to boost bourbon sales.   

How to Make a Kentucky Mule 

Kentucky Mules aren’t hard to make, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it. All you need is a copper mug, your favorite bourbon, some ginger beer, and a garnish – lime works the best for a Kentucky Mule because it balances out the spicy flavor.

To make the Kentucky Mule, start by pouring two ounces of bourbon into your copper mug. From there, add ½ ounce of lime juice and take the drink off with ginger beer. You can balance out the strength of the drink by adding more or less ginger beer. 

When it comes to the garnish, you can use a line for more citrus or a mint sprig to get a more diverse flavor profile. 

We also recommend adding some ice to this drink to keep nice and cold as you sip it. Always stir the drink properly to ensure that all of the ingredients mix properly.

How to Serve a Kentucky Mule 

Kentucky Mules are easy to serve, and you can drink them at home, on vacation, or at a restaurant. They pair well with most dinner dishes, so there’s nothing specific that you need to worry about combining them with for optimal flavor. 

That said, these drinks are best for people who enjoy bourbon. So, if you have guests who are expecting a traditional Moscow Mule, we recommend pouring the vodka instead of bourbon.

Kentucky Mules should also be served in a copper cup if you have one. While this is not a necessity, it’s important to serve them in this cup because it keeps the drink cold and slightly enhances the smell of the drink and flavor of the liquor.

When to Drink a Kentucky Mule 

The beauty of the Kentucky Mule is that there are no restrictions on when you can drink it. Unlike dessert drinks, it’s a drink that you can have when you’re out to dinner or out with friends at your local watering hole. Ultimately, it comes down to when you want to drink it.

Still, the Kentucky Mule is more of a niche drink than the Moscow Mule, so if you’re at a bar outside of Kentucky or the South, we recommend asking for a Moscow Mule but swapping the vodka for bourbon.

What Are Some Kentucky Mule Variations?

Kentucky Mule variations aren’t very common. For the beverage to be a Kentucky Mule, it needs to have bourbon whiskey in the drink. This means that you need to have bourbon and the ginger beer and lime juice that make it a mule.

Still, some bars will have their own unique versions of the Kentucky Mule. Some bars may replace bourbon with a different tone of whiskey and still call it a Kentucky Mule. 

Alternatively, you can use the same recipe but with rye whiskey to get a similar-tasting drink. If you prefer something that tastes more like your whiskey of choice, then we recommend swapping out the ingredients because it’s worth it.

You can also try some variations of the mule drink. The best example is the Moscow Mule, which replaced the bourbon with vodka. This is the original version of the drink, so it’s worth a try, even if you prefer the Moscow Mule. 

Some Spanish restaurants will also serve mules that contain tequila and agave, along with ginger beer and lime juice – these taste more like a Michelada than a mule. Ultimately, it comes down to where you are and your liquor of choice.

Enjoy the Sweet and Spicy Taste of a Kentucky Mule Today!

overhead shot of kentucky mule with straw

You can’t go wrong with a Kentucky Mule if you’re a big bourbon fan. The combination of spice and citrus make the Kentucky Mule a staple in many of the local dive bars and sports bars of Kentucky. 

While it’s harder to find outside of the state, the good news is that you don’t have to walk up to the bartender and call it a Kentucky Mule. Instead, try asking for a Moscow Mule but with bourbon instead of vodka. There’s a good chance that they can make it for you. If you still can't find anything like it, you can try Ranch Water instead. It's not quite the same but it has that same refreshing taste to it.

We also recommend trying the Kentucky Mule if you’re new to bourbon. It’s a great way to ease yourself into the spice that bourbon has, plus, you don’t need to use expensive bourbon to make a good Kentucky Mule.

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