In this post, we discuss the delicious Montana Mule, which is a variation on the classic Moscow Mule. Read on to learn about the history of the Montana Mule and the best recipe for the cocktail you will find anywhere on the web!
Everyone loves a good Mule. And no, we’re not talking about the donkey/horse hybrid -- though who are we to besmirch such noble creatures? -- we’re talking about the cocktail (or, at this point, cocktail category) that bears its name. It all started with the Moscow Mule, a drink that sought to combine the clear-headed bite of vodka with the kick of spicy ginger beer (hence the reference to the hooved animal). Add in a bit of lime juice, and the famous copper mug, and voila -- you have an instant favorite that became such a cross-country craze that it single-handedly solidified vodka’s popularity in the United States.
There are many different versions of how the famous Moscow Mule came about. Some say it was the result of tireless troubleshooting; the search for the perfect refreshing cocktail. Others say it was born out of necessity; a business owner found himself with a surplus of vodka and ginger beer and simply decided to put the two of them together. The use of its iconic copper mug has also been attributed both to overstock and to its role in maintaining the drink’s refreshing presentation. As is usually the case with these things, there is not a lot of documentation on the subject, and the drink’s origins remain murky and debated. Whatever the case, the Moscow Mule soon became one of the most popular drinks in the country.
Of course, things didn’t end there. As drinks tend to do, there were a number of regional variations as the noble Mule spread throughout the country. Though there were a few constants that remained throughout -- the copper mug, the splash of lime juice, the use of spicy ginger beer (or, in some cases, ginger ale) -- different regions started swapping the spirit out for their own. And because each spirit radically alters the taste, feel, and overall drinking experience of a cocktail, these weren’t simply small tweaks on an existing drink -- they became their own thing. This is why we referred to Mules as their own drink category -- they each have their own identity, but the spicy kick of the ginger beer and the famous copper mug both contribute to a unified identity.
And so you have the Mexican Mule, where vodka is replaced by tequila; you have the Kentucky Mule, which in turn replaces the spirit with Kentucky bourbon; you have a Caribbean Mule, where tequila is the spirit of choice, and so on and so forth. Each Mule variation brings something new to the table. Each has the intensity from the spicy ginger beer. Each is served in its trademark copper mugs.
The Montana Mule
The variation of the drink that we’re focusing on today is, strangely enough, not a version that a lot of people really talk about very often: the Montana Mule. The name conjures images of Montana’s beautiful wide-open skies and, if you’ve ever sampled whiskey made from Montana’s distilleries, you know they have something truly special when it comes to their spirits. As you might guess, the Montana Mule replaces the Moscow Mule’s vodka base with Montana-produced whiskey.
The smokier flavors of the brown liquor make any cocktail that replaces vodka for whiskey an entirely different experience. There is a richness to it that immediately sets it apart from the breezy openness of the original Moscow Mule; it’s still very refreshing, but the contrast in flavors makes it a much more complex drinking experience; the bright notes from the ginger and lime juice contrast interestingly with the darker tones of the whiskey. Of course, there are always differences within the Moscow Mule itself based on which brand of vodka you’re using, but it is overall much more of a “blank slate” in terms of how it interacts with its surrounding flavors, whereas whiskey offers much more of a fight.
Best Whiskey for Montana Mule
There are several different brands of whiskey produced in Montana that can be used for this purpose. One of our favorites is Bozeman Spirits Montana 1889 Whiskey, which is a blend of a 6-7 year old whiskey that is made in Indiana with a whiskey they have distilled on site, barreled and aged. Their mash bill is corn, Montana malted barley, and Montana rye. After more blending and a distillation process, the whiskey is proofed down to 90 proof and bottled. The end result is an outstanding product with a strong caramel aroma and a delicious taste of peppery rye spice, malt, oak, and citrus. Really delicious and pairs very well with the bright notes of ginger and lime juice.
Another great product is Bighorn Bourbon Whiskey made by Willie's Distillery in Ennis, Montana, which is a blend of bourbons of varying ages. It is a lightly proofed bourbon named for the "majestic Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram." The whiskey has a smokey nose giving way to a toffee, sugar, and cinnamon taste; it's very easy to drink, very smooth, and very sweet. This will make your Montana Mule positively sparkle with sweetness and an added depth of smokey flavor.
And finally, another example of Montana whiskey is RoughStock Montana Bourbon Whiskey from RoughStock Distillery near the Bridger Mountain Range. They created 4 different bourbon recipes distilled from corn, rye and malted barley and, after aging, blended them together. It's a lovely whiskey with a warming, slightly sweet taste, plus notes of mature oak flavor that add to its complexity. Not only that, but the product is twice-distilled in copper pot stills, which makes it even more appropriate for use in the Montana Mule.
Best Montana Mule Recipe
- 1.5 oz Montana whiskey
- 6 oz ginger beer
- The juice of 1 lime
Add ice to a copper mug. Pour your whiskey over the ice, add lime juice, and fill up the glass with ginger beer. Like we said earlier, it is possible to substitute the ginger beer for ginger ale; however, this will give you an entirely different flavor with a much milder ginger kick. Also, ginger beer is to taste. If you like more of a whiskey taste, add less; if you like a sweeter drink, add more!
That’s it! It’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? That’s the beauty of these Mule cocktails; they’re all about the quality of the ingredients and the ways in which the very simple parts interact. They’re not crowded, fussy, or showy like a lot of other cocktails; instead, they let the two main ingredients -- the spirit base and the ginger beer -- take center stage, do their little dance, and guide you through the whole experience. Anything else is just extra.
The Montana Huckleberry Mule
We should mention that the Montana Mule is not to be confused with the cocktail known as the Montana Huckleberry Mule. This is a different variation on the original Mule formula; instead of the plain vodka in the Moscow Mule or the whiskey in the Montana Mule, it uses huckleberry vodka as its spirit base.
If you’re not familiar with huckleberries, they are a sweet and delicious fruit that is native to Montana, though it can be found in other places (in fact, it is the state fruit of neighboring Idaho!). The key to the Montana Huckleberry Mule is the sweetness that is added to the vodka by the fruit, which radically alters the entire drink experience.
If you want to go into a little bit of history, we can even talk about how the copper mug used to serve these drinks immediately calls to mind the wild west days of Montana, and the way boom towns popped up back then in pursuit of copper and other natural minerals which were present in the area. In this way, the Montana Huckleberry Mule is like a neat little piece of history; a living record of a time long past, as well as… well, just a delicious cocktail on its own!
Unfortunately, huckleberry vodka isn’t very easy to find, so you’ll have to do a little bit of scouring if you want to experience this time-travel-cocktail.
One brand to keep an eye out for is Bozeman Spirits from beautiful Bozeman, Montana; they use huckleberries when they are in season to produce Cold Spring Huckleberry Vodka. The end result is a sweet, smooth, delectably fruity vodka, which will augment the ginger flavor in your Montana Huckleberry Mule.
Another example is 44 Degrees North Huckleberry Vodka, which is a potato vodka distilled using a five-column distillation process from 100% potato neutral spirits and blended with Rocky Mountain Water from the Snake River Aquifer, then blended with mountain huckleberries for a mellow, sweet flavor. And it's gluten-free!
You could also go with Grand Teton Huckleberry Infused Vodka, which is a product derived from the Double Gold winning Grand Teton Vodka and real mountain huckleberries. The vodka is naturally infused with the huckleberries over a period of 12 weeks, with no artificial colors or flavors. This results in a flavorful, subtly sweet and tart base for the Montana Mule.
So if you come upon some huckleberry flavored vodka and you want to attempt a Montana Huckleberry Mule, here’s how you make it!
Best Montana Huckleberry Mule Recipe
- 1.5 oz Huckleberry vodka
- 6 oz ginger beer
- The juice of 1 lime
Once again, we start by adding ice to a copper mug. Pour the huckleberry vodka over the ice, add the lime juice, and fill up the glass with ginger beer. Remember that there is some sweetness here on account of the huckleberry vodka, so try with different amounts and see what works best for you. That’s it! Sit back and enjoy this delicious, sweet and refreshing cocktail; just try your best not to affect an old wild-west prospector persona and annoy all your friends.
We just broke down the Montana Mule and the Montana Huckleberry Mule, two cocktails that -- though superficially similar, on account of sharing many of the same ingredients and presentation -- are actually radically different from each other. They’re each unique drinking experiences that put on full display how making seemingly minor tweaks can completely alter the character of a drink.
To take your cocktail experience to the next level, check out these gorgeous authentic copper mugs! Bottoms up!