Des Linden’s love for bourbon started in, of all places, a Costco in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Nearly a decade ago, the professional long distance runner and her husband, fellow marathoner, Ryan Linden, went to the big box store for video games and walked out with a Costco-sized handle of Knob Creek Bourbon. The sheer quantity of liquor led to a tasting with friends who brought other bottles of whiskey. “We were able to sit and really compare,” recalls Linden, “and realized that it’s a very sippable, intricate drink.”
Since that fateful tasting, the couple’s whiskey collection has ballooned to around 40 or 50 bottles. When Linden, the winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon, feels like fixing up a bourbon cocktail, she makes a Kentucky Mule, composed of bourbon, lime juice and ginger beer, and served over crushed ice. Her agent, Josh Cox, first introduced her to a related drink, the vodka-based Moscow Mule, when she was unwinding after a race. “I think the ice component kind of sold it, because you’re just probably really dehydrated,” admits Linden. The Kentucky Mule, which swaps in whiskey for vodka, was a natural transition. “We have plenty of bourbon around the house!”
The two-time Olympian tends to go for a Moscow Mule “in dead summer, when it’s super hot and you just want a refreshing drink.” She reserves her Kentucky Mule for autumn or spring evenings and usually enjoys it with her husband at their home in Charlevoix, Michigan.
“We’re done with the running and we’re going to have a cocktail on the deck,” she says. They pair their drinks with the gorgeous view of the sun setting over Lake Michigan and are often joined by their neighbors. “It’s just a good time.”
It’s not only whiskey that’s captured their hearts, the couple recently started their own specialty coffee company, Linden x Two. “I think I have this interest in flavor and taste particularly in drink, because I’m not really a foodie,” she explains.
Currently, Linden is training to break the world record for running the 50K (31.1 miles) distance in April. “I don’t know how much bourbon will play a part beforehand,” she confesses. “But it definitely will be present afterward.”
Here’s the annotated recipe for Linden’s delicious Kentucky Mule.
The key with choosing a bourbon for a Kentucky Mule is pairing it with the citrus. “Complementing the lime is a tricky one, so you want it to be a classic, even-keeled bourbon,” advises Linden, who typically opts for Woodford Reserve or Bulleit.
For Linden, hand-squeezing the lime is a requirement. “I’m big on getting the pulp in there,” she says. The fresh lime juice brightens up the cocktail, and the pulp adds a little texture. “My hands are usually wrinkled by the end from all the juice,” Linden laughs. “It’s super annoying, but it’s worth it.”
As for the ginger beer, Linden gravitates toward Cock ’n Bull. “I like the particular balance between spicy and sweet,” she reveals. “As a Mule mixer, it really blends well with the bourbon.”
Traditionally, a Mule is served in a copper mug and Linden sticks to this custom. “You have to have the copper mug,” she insists. “It enhances the experience, for sure.”
Linden goes heavy on the crushed ice classically used in the cocktail to make it super refreshing and to cut through the sweetness of the ginger beer. “It still allows that punchy, spicy finish to shine.” The ice pellets also provide a satisfying crunch. To break up the ice, she keeps it low-tech and uses a mallet to smash ice cubes in a plastic bag.
Continuing with the low-maintenance vibe of the drink, Linden simply adds all the ingredients directly to the mug. “Just kind of give it a swish and [it’s] good to go.”
Linden likes to finish off her Kentucky Mule with a lime wheel and candied ginger garnish. And she doesn’t use a straw. It would get in the way of that deliciously crunchy ice. “It’s part of the appeal.”
- 1.5 oz Bourbon
- Juice of half a lime
- 4 oz Cock ’n Bull Ginger Beer
- Glass: Copper mug
- Garnish: Lime wheel & candied ginger
Hand-squeeze the half of a lime into a copper mug, 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 wheel and a piece of candied ginger.
In our new monthly column, House Drink, we talk to people about their favorite cocktails to make for themselves at home.
Illustrations by Olivia McGiff