This very best Kentucky mule is the perfect refreshing cocktail for bourbon lovers! Freshly squeezed lime juice, smooth bourbon and cooling ginger beer come together to make one drink you’ll want to sip on the patio all night. You can whip up this favorite whiskey drink in under five minutes, and it couldn’t be easier to prepare. Plus, this bourbon mule comes with a batching option for easy entertaining.
What Is a Kentucky Mule?
The Kentucky mule is a riff off its famous cocktail cousin, the Moscow mule. While a classic Moscow mule features vodka, fresh-squeezed lime juice and ginger beer, the Kentucky mule embraces its Southern roots and swaps vodka for bourbon.
You’ll love how bourbon gives this mule a richer, deeper flavor as its vanilla and caramel notes add a smoothness to that spicy ginger beer. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this recipe becomes your new favorite way to enjoy a mule.
Besides these two mule varieties, there are so many other types. Here are just a few.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Only requires three simple ingredients: No fancy liqueurs or simple syrups required here. Bourbon, lime juice and ginger beer are all it takes.
Quick and easy: Not a master bartender? That’s no problem here. If you can stir, you can make a perfect Kentucky mule. This is truly one of the easiest cocktails to mix.
Works as a large-batch recipe: If you don’t want to spend the whole evening mixing drinks, mules are great to turn into pitcher recipes. Hosting doesn’t get more simple than that.
Perfect for your Kentucky Derby party: Mint juleps are a classic, and you can’t go wrong serving my peach mint julep, sweet tea mint julep or strawberry mint julep. But this Kentucky mule makes a great alternative for something different while still showing off that Derby spirit.
Bourbon: All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. A proper Kentucky mule recipe specifically calls for bourbon, not just any whiskey. To qualify as bourbon, it must be aged in new charred-oak barrels with a grain bill that’s at least 51 percent from corn. That corn gives bourbon its signature sweeter flavor from other whiskeys.
Lime juice: Make sure you use freshly squeezed lime juice. Your drink will not be nearly as delicious and refreshing if you opt for bottled juice. When we’re only dealing with three ingredients, quality matters even more.
Ginger beer: Make sure you get ginger beer, not ginger ale for this bourbon mule. They’re two entirely different products. Ginger beer is spicier and less sweet and gives the mule its distinct taste.
Step 1: We start by adding the bourbon whiskey, fresh lime juice and ice to a copper mug (photo 1). Mule drinks are made right in the serving glass, so we don’t need a cocktail shaker.
Step 2: Now we stir the mixture well with a bar spoon for about 15-20 seconds to chill (photo 2). As it starts to cool, you’ll notice condensation form on the mug.
Step 3: With the bourbon mixture chilled, we pour in cold ginger beer and gently stir one more time (photo 3).
Step 4: For our final step, we add a sprig of mint and a lime wheel or wedge as a garnish (photo 4). This is optional, but it adds a lovely touch. Plus, I love how the mint sprig reminds me of a mint julep.
And with that, our Kentucky mule is ready to enjoy. Take a sip and savor that bubbly finish.
How to Make a Pitcher for Parties
Now let’s review how to make a pitcher of Kentucky mules. The process couldn’t be easier. You can find the exact proportions in the recipe card.
- Add the bourbon, lime juice and a handful or two of ice to a large pitcher.
- Stir the bourbon mixture for 15-20 seconds and use a slotted spoon to remove any remaining ice. This accounts for the dilution you’d typically get.
- Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Don’t go long than that — the lime juice flavor will start to dull.
- Right before serving, pour in the ginger beer.
- Now guests can serve themselves and keep their glass full, and your bartending duties are complete.
Save any rare, expensive bourbon for sipping on its own. At the same time, you don’t want a bottom-shelf bourbon, which is too harsh. A mid-range bourbon that’s good enough to sip neat is perfect. Bonus points for using an actual Kentucky bourbon.
Some of my favorites for cocktail mixing include Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit Bourbon and Four Roses. If you’d like some more inspiration, check out this resource on the best bourbon for cocktails.
Not to be confused with ginger ale, ginger beer is a sparkling beverage made by fermenting fresh ginger with sugar. Long ago, ginger beer often contained alcohol, but these days, most ginger beers are nonalcoholic and are used in cocktails for that spicy ginger flavor and bubbly finish.
Copper mugs are traditional for mule cocktails because they’re great at insulating the drink’s icy-cold temperature to keep every sip refreshing.
That said, you certainly don’t have to have a copper mule mug to enjoy a this drink. A double old fashioned glass or highball glass can also work. Don’t miss out on this tasty number just because of glassware.
Who doesn’t love a classic cocktail with a delicious twist? Here are a few ways you can put a unique touch on the Kentucky mule along with links to similar recipes to help you navigate the correct proportions and techniques.
- Muddle with fresh fruit — strawberry mule or cherry Kentucky mule.
- Stir in fruit purée — peach mule.
- Use an infused simple syrup — rosemary Kentucky mule.
- Add a splash of your favorite juice — cranberry mule or blood orange mule.
- Swap a homemade flavored bourbon for regular bourbon in equal parts — cherry-infused bourbon and orange-infused bourbon.
Slap the mint: Before garnishing, place the fresh mint sprig in the palm of your hand and quickly clap the other hand on top. This releases the mint’s fragrance for an even more delightful drinking experience.
Chill the ginger beer: To keep that copper mug nice and icy, make sure the ginger beer is well-chilled and not at room temperature. This is why I like to always keep ginger beer in the refrigerator, so I can whip up a refreshing mule at a moment’s notice.
Stir gently: Once you pour in the ginger beer, use a light touch when stirring to preserve the carbonation. We just want to combine the mixtures.
Use ripe limes: When you pick your limes at the grocery store, they should have a little give when you press your fingers into the skin. If the limes are hard, they’re dried out.
Freeze your mugs: On a particularly hot summer evening, I love to put the copper cup in the freezer for about 15 minutes before mixing for an extra cooling effect.
We have so many options here. With its bold body and touch of smoke from the charred oak barrels, bourbon is great with some big meats. Enjoy these favorite pairings.
Thanks to those sweet vanilla and caramel notes, bourbon is also wonderful with so many desserts, especially with the ginger addition. These are great options if you prefer to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Bourbon-maple banana bread
- Peach clafoutis
- Whiskey chocolate cake
- Maple-bourbon pumpkin pie
- Apple shortcakes
When you need the perfect bourbon cocktail, do yourself a favor and mix together this Kentucky mule. You’ll love every refreshing sip.
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The Best Kentucky Mule
- Copper mug
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Handheld citrus juicer
- Bar spoon
- 2 ounces bourbon
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 6 ounces chilled ginger beer
- Fresh mint sprig for garnish, optional
- Lime wedge or wheel for garnish, optional
- Add the bourbon, lime juice and a handful of ice to a copper mug.
- Using the bar spoon stir for about 15-20 seconds to chill the bourbon mixture.
- Top with chilled ginger beer. Gently stir to combine.
- Place the mint sprig in the palm of one hand and quickly clap over it to release its fragrance. Add the sprig to the mug with the lime. Enjoy!
- When you pick your limes at the grocery store, they should have a little give when you press your fingers into the skin. If the limes are hard, they’re dried out.
- Use a handheld citrus juicer to maximize your juice output.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.