Des Linden’s love of bourbon began in, of all places, a Costco in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Almost a decade ago, the professional long-distance runner and her husband, marathoner Ryan Linden, went to the big box store to buy video games and walked out with a handful of Knob Creek Bourbon the size of. Costco. The large amount of alcohol led to a tasting with friends who brought more bottles of whiskey. “We got to sit down and really compare,” recalls Linden, “and we realized it was a very complex drink to sip on.”
Since that fateful tasting, the couple’s whiskey collection has swelled to around 40 or 50 bottles. When Linden, the winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon, feels like making a bourbon cocktail, she brews a Kentucky Mule, made with bourbon, lime juice and ginger beer, and served over crushed ice. Her agent Josh Cox first introduced her to a related drink, the Moscow Mule made from vodka, as she relaxed after a run. “I think the ice component sort of sold it, because you’re probably very dehydrated,” Linden admits. The Kentucky Mule, which trades whiskey for vodka, was a natural transition. “We have a lot of bourbon around the house!”
The two-time Olympian tends to go for a Moscow mule “in the summer, when it’s really hot and you just want a refreshing drink”. She reserves her Kentucky Mule for fall or spring evenings and usually enjoys it with her husband at their home in Charlevoix, Michigan.
“We’re done running and we’re going to have a cocktail on the deck,” she said. They associate their drinks with the magnificent view of the sunset over Lake Michigan and are often joined by their neighbors. “It’s just a good time.”
It wasn’t just the whiskey that captured their hearts, the couple recently started their own specialty coffee business, Linden x Two. “I think I have this interest in flavor and taste especially in drinks, because I’m not really a foodie,” she explains.
Currently, Linden is training to break the 50 km (31.1 mile) world race record in April. “I don’t know how much of a role bourbon will play in advance,” she admits. “But he will certainly be there afterwards.”
Here is the annotated recipe for Linden’s delicious Kentucky Mule.
The key to choosing a bourbon for a Kentucky Mule is pairing it with citrus. “Completing the lime is tricky, so you want it to be a classic bourbon with an even hull,” advises Linden, who typically opts for Woodford Reserve or Bulleit.
For Linden, pressing lime by hand is a requirement. “I’m very fond of putting pulp in there,” she says. The fresh lime juice brightens the cocktail and the pulp adds a bit of texture. “My hands are usually wrinkled at the end from all the juice,” Linden laughs. “It’s super boring, but it’s worth it.”
As for ginger beer, Linden gravitates towards Cock ‘n Bull. “I like the particular balance between spicy and sweet,” she reveals. “As a Mule blender, it pairs really well with bourbon. “
Traditionally, a mule is served in a copper cup and the lime tree sticks to this custom. “You must have the copper cup,” she insists. “It improves the experience, for sure. “
Linden uses crushed ice conventionally used in the cocktail to make it super refreshing and to cut through the sweetness of ginger beer. “It always allows that punchy and spicy finish to shine.” Ice pellets also provide a satisfying crunch. To break the ice, she keeps it rudimentary and uses a mallet to smash ice cubes into a plastic bag.
Continuing the low maintenance vibe of the drink, Linden simply adds all the ingredients right into the cup. “Just give it a boost and [it’s] it’s good to go.
Linden likes to finish her Kentucky Mule with a lime wedge and candied ginger garnish. And she doesn’t use straw. It would interfere with this deliciously crispy ice cream. “This is part of the appeal.
Kentucky Mule by Des Linden
- 1.5 ounces of Bourbon
- Juice of half a lime
- 4 oz Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer
- Glass: copper cup
- Garnish: Lime wheel & candied ginger
Hand squeeze half a lime into a copper cup, making sure to get some of the pulp with the juice. Add the bourbon and ginger beer, and fill with crushed ice. Stir a few times, and garnish with a lime slice and a piece of candied ginger.
In our new monthly column, House Drink, we tell people about their favorite cocktails to make themselves at home.
Illustrations by Olivia McGiff