It can be easy to fall into a rut. Sometimes you look around and realize you’ve been doing the same thing, eating the same thing, and drinking the same thing for days or weeks in a row. And when you’re in a rut, it can feel hard to break out.
But often, just one change can make a big difference. Something as simple as trying a new recipe is often enough to jump-start a person out of a rut. And in the summer, the best new recipe to try is a new drink, like the bootleg cocktail.
The bootleg cocktail is easy to make, can be adjusted to your personal taste preferences, and makes any summer day better with its refreshing flavor. It’s a Minnesota original and one of the best treats you can give yourself on a hot summer day.
The History of the Bootleg Drink
Considering the bootleg’s reputation as the unofficial official alcoholic drink of Minnesota, very little is known about its origins. But, in a way, that just makes it even more Minnesotan.
After all, the most famous sandwich to ever come out of Minnesota is the Jucy Lucy. A burger with cheese inside the patty instead of on top, there has been a dispute about whether Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club first served the Jucy Lucy in the mid-50s.
Similarly, no one really knows where the bootleg cocktail came from—even though it is the Minnesota signature drink. The reason for this mystery is that the bootlegger was invented during Prohibition.
Since distributing alcohol was illegal in the 1920s, people weren’t exactly advertising their mixology skills. But people running speakeasies and many country clubs were still selling booze despite the risk.
What we know about the bootleg is that it emerged from the Twin Cities area sometime in the 1920s. It is commonly assumed that it was first created at a country club as opposed to a speakeasy. That’s about it.
Unfortunately, because making and selling alcohol was illegal in the United States, the quality of the spirits used in the original bootlegger cocktail recipe was probably low. So to mask that poor quality vodka, gin, or rum, the bootleg cocktail backs a big, flavorful punch.
After Prohibition was repealed, the bootleg only improved. Since the spirits being masked by the other ingredients were now of better quality, the bootleg cocktail became a smooth drink with barely any bite from the alcohol it contains.
The Bootleg Drink Mix
Now that we’ve gone over the history of the bootleg, it’s time to look at what a bootleg cocktail is made of. As previously mentioned, this is a drink with big flavors that are almost tailor-made for summertime enjoyment.
A typical bootlegger mixed drink recipe will use quantities designed to make about four servings. This is a great social drink—much like a margarita, it is great for relaxing with friends and swapping stories as you cool off from a hot day.
The first things you will need are cans of frozen lemonade and limeade. Some recipes you see online will recommend fresh lemon juice and/or fresh lime juice, but frozen concentrate gives you an easy way to measure your quantity without sacrificing flavor.
Frozen lemonade also gives you options for flavor variations. Pink lemonade or other flavor mixes can add a new dimension to an already great drink. You can also squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top of your drink before serving and add a lime wedge as a garnish if you like.
The next major ingredient is fresh mint. This is important because the fresh mint gives an aromatic quality to the drink as well as a bit of texture on top of the crisp flavor. You will want to de-stem the mint you put in the drink. A sprig of mint on its stem, much like a lime wedge, makes for a great garnish.
You will also need simple syrup to help the aforementioned ingredients blend together. Additionally, you will need club soda or seltzer to add a fizzy finish to the drink.
The only other ingredient is the spirit you choose to put in the drink. The most common choices for a bootleg cocktail mix are vodka, gin, or rum. However, the drink still works very well with a whiskey such as a smooth bourbon.
Those are the only ingredients you’ll need to make a bootleg drink Minnesota will approve of. Now you just need to know how to put it together.
You will need a blender, tall glasses such as pint glasses, and ice to properly serve a bootleg cocktail. As a reminder, here are the ingredients and quantities you will need:
- One can of frozen lemonade
- One can of frozen limeade
- 2-3 bunches of fresh mint, stems removed
- ¼ cup simple syrup
- 2 oz. Your choice of vodka, gin, rum, or whiskey
- Club soda to top
To start, put your can of frozen lemonade and your can of frozen limeade into your blender. Add two to three bunches of fresh mint. Then blend them on puree. Add a quarter cup of simple syrup and blend until all the ingredients are just mixed in. Some mixologists recommend adding water here to make sure the frozen juice concentrates are well and truly broken up.
Next, fill your glass with ice. Then add two ounces of your spirit of choice (vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, etc) to the glass. Follow that with two ounces of your bootleg cocktail mix. Then top it off with two ounces of club soda.
Then all you need to do is add your garnish of choice and serve! The bootleg cocktail really is just that easy. But be careful—you may not realize how much you’re drinking because this mix hides the alcohol flavor very effectively.
Of course, the joy of mixing your own drinks is the freedom to adjust them to your taste. You can increase the bootlegger drink alcohol content beyond two ounces, squeeze fresh juice over the top, make it without any alcohol whatsoever, or any number of other variations. It all depends on how you’re feeling that day.
This freedom to experiment also means that it is easy to make bootlegs specifically for each of your guests’ flavor and alcohol preferences. Someone doesn’t like gin? Make one with vodka! Someone is sober? They don’t need to miss out on this minty, citrusy masterpiece.
Relaxation, Minnesota Style
There really is nothing like a bootleg cocktail. The citrus and mint flavors along with the club soda give a refreshing, effervescent flavor and texture. And because of the boldness of the mix, many people don’t even taste the kick of the alcohol in each glass—it is a drink designed not to bite you back when you drink it.
The MN state drink is a godsend on those hot, humid summer nights. It’s a cool breeze, just when you need one. It’s easy to make and a pleasure to drink. What more could anyone ever want?
So break out your blender, grab these ingredients, and enjoy a Minnesota tradition that goes back to the days of Prohibition. It is a Minnesota drink in a class of its own—get a hold of a bootleg cocktail tonight and taste the glory you’ve been missing.