Fruity, tart, and the perfect amount of sweet, this muddled strawberry Kentucky mule is a delicious twist on the classic cocktail. Made with bourbon instead of vodka and a sprig of mint, this drink can be found at the intersection of Moscow Mule and Mint Julep. In its distinct copper mug, this is a cocktail worth enjoying over happy hour.
Swap the vodka in the standard Moscow Mule for bourbon and you have yourself a good lookin' Kentucky Mule! Yes, it's that simple. BUT we are spicing it up a tad and adding some muddled strawberries to the mix in and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice for some tartness. It's like strawberry lemonade in mule form!
Kentucky Mule Ingredients
- Ginger beer - This is the star of the mule show. It's spicy and bubbly with a light and gingery flavor. Most every mule recipe uses this as the base ingredient. It's important to note that ginger beer is different than ginger ale. Ginger beer is much stronger in taste and has a more spicy flavoring. You can also use ginger ale in this Kentucky mule recipe, just know it won't have the ginger kick of a classic Moscow mule.
- Bourbon - They key to making this drink a "Kentucky" mule. Use Kentucky bourbon if you really want to make this cocktail authentic but any type of whiskey will work too.
- Strawberries - Muddle these into the cocktail which releases some crisp sweetness to the drink. Fresh, slightly soft strawberries work best.
- Lemon - This adds some tartness to the drink which pairs beautifully with the sweet strawberries and spicy ginger beer. A lime wedge will work as well if that's all you have on hand.
- Mint - Used to garnish the drink and provide a touch of freshness. Feel free to omit this if needed.
Bourbon vs Whiskey
While they may look similar, the two have distinct differences. Bourbon is actually a type of whiskey. It has to be made from at least 51% corn, aged in oar barrels, and made in America, where 95% is made in Kentucky. Whiskey, however, can be made wherever. There are lots of types of whiskey like Irish whiskey, Rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, etc.
In order for a Kentucky mule to me called a "Kentucky" mule, it must be made with Kentucky bourbon. So, if you want to throw an authentic Kentucky derby party, you better make sure you are using bourbon in your Kentucky mule drink.
The best bourbon for bourbon mules
First, there are many different types of really good bourbon. They cost a pretty penny and I don't recommend mixing them in a cocktail.
The best bourbons I have found for Kentucky mule cocktails is Bulleit Bourbon, Woodford Reserve, Larceny Bourbon, or Maker's Mark .
How to make a Kentucky Mule
You will need a cocktail glass or a tall and wide jar, a muddler and strainer, and a copper mugs or highball glass.
Step 1 : Muddle the strawberries
In the bottom of your cocktail glass, place the strawberries at the bottom and squeeze the lemon over top. Use the muddler to crush up the strawberries into the lemon juice until no large clumps remain.
The best way to muddle the strawberries is to do a twisting motion with the muddler as you press down. You should hear a cranking sound as the strawberries begin to break up into small pieces.
Step 2 : Pour the strawberry juice into a mug
Fill your copper mug with ice and pour the strawberry mixture into the glass through a strainer. The strainer will catch any large chunks left over and allow the liquid to seep through.
Step 3 : Top with bourbon and ginger beer
Next pour the bourbon into the glass and then fill the rest of the glass up with ginger beer. The drink will bubble quickly and then settle back down. If you want to be precise, use about 3 oz of ginger beer per drink.
If you're feeling fancy, place a fresh mint sprig into the cocktail and a lemon or lime slice to garnish and enjoy!
Copper Mugs for Moscow Mules and Kentucky Mules
The original Moscow mule recipe is served in a copper mug. This is due to the look of the mug and the fact that the copper keeps the drink cold and enriches the ginger taste. The rule of thumb now is that all mules are served in a copper mug.
These make a great Moscow mule mug. They have a hammered exterior and a food safe interior.
Traditionally mules are served in copper mugs. However, you can definitely use a cocktail glass like a high ball or a collins glass.
You can also make this recipe in a pitcher to serve for a crowd. I recommend making it in a large container without ice and then allowing guests to fill up a glass with ice and pour the cocktail over top. This prevents the cocktail from getting watered down from ice melt in the pitcher.
I like to use a ratio of 2 ounces bourbon per drink. So it you are making a pitcher for 5 people, you would add 10 ounces of bourbon along with the muddled strawberries and ginger beer.
There are so many fun ways to mix things up with different flavors:
- Swap the strawberries with blackberries for another fruity twist
- Use fresh lime juice instead of lemon for a less tart flavor
- Make it a Mexican mule by using tequila or mezcal in place of the bourbon
- Use Irish whiskey instead of bourbon for an Irish mule
- Opt for a good Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniels in place of the bourbon for a Tennessee mule
Frequently asked questions
The classic cocktail is served in a copper mug to insulate the drink and keep it cool but also to enrich the taste of the drink.
A Moscow Mule is made with vodka while a Kentucky Mule is made with Kentucky bourbon instead.
Because Kentucky bourbon is used in this drink, it's referred to as a "Kentucky" mule.
A whiskey mule has the classic mule ingredients of ginger beer and lime but uses a whiskey as the liquor.
For more refreshing cocktails, check out my:
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Muddled Strawberry Kentucky Mule
- 3 ripe strawberries
- ½ ounce lemon juice - approx ½ lemon
- 2 oz bourbon
- 3 oz ginger beer
- Mint sprig - to garnish
- Remove the stems from the strawberries and place them in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or large jar. Add the lemon juice and use a muddler or a fork to break up the strawberries into a puree. Apply pressure while twisting the muddler in your hand to grind the strawberries into the lemon juice until no large clumps remain.
- Fill a copper mug with ice and pour the strawberry puree through a strainer and into the glass. I used a julep strainer but any type of strainer will work. You can also use a fork to hold back the ice and strawberry pieces so only the liquid runs out.
- Pour the bourbon over top followed by the ginger beer. The ginger beer will bubble up at first and then settle down. If needed, finish off the drink with another splash of ginger beer so the glass is full.
- Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and extra strawberries and lemon slices if desired and enjoy!