Last week, near the end of a long, hot day, I got a text from my father-in-law, Charlie Hebble, about a cold drink from Minneapolis. Charlie lives in Florida now, but he was born in the Twin Cities. His parents kept some Minnesota traditions going after the family moved to New Hampshire. One of the most memorable was the Bootleg.
“I can vividly remember my dad making Bootlegs,” Charlie wrote. “The day I graduated from high school, Mom and Dad had a small party in the backyard and served Bootlegs to the guests. (The drinking age was 18!)”
I wasn’t familiar with the Bootleg, but a quick Google search confirmed that it is a summertime standby in the Twin Cities—to the extent that you can buy a Bootleg-inspired spirit from Minneapolis’s Tattersall Distilling. Local lore holds that the mix’s name and popularity originated with good-timing Minnesotans who couldn’t stomach unadulterated bootleg liquor during Prohibition. It’s is a country club staple today, claimed by clubhouses from White Bear Lake to Wayzata.
Tattersall co-founder Jon Kreidler helpfully described the cocktail, a sort of boozy mint lemonade, as a “Minnesota mojito” in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. (Reporter Sharyn Jackson wrote that it’s “best consumed near a golf course,” which helped me understand why it appeals to the Hebbles.) Reading an in-depth City Pages report, I learned that most club bartenders batch their signature Bootleg mixes ahead of time, and that they sell take-home jars of mix to members who want the cocktail exactly as served at Somerset or the White Bear Yacht Club.
Tattersall co-founder Jon Kreidler helpfully described the cocktail, a sort of boozy mint lemonade, as a “Minnesota mojito.”
I’ve never golfed in my life, and I’ve never hung around Minnesota country clubs or, unfortunately, Minnesotans who have shared Bootleg mix, so, in search of context and a reliable recipe, I reached out to Charlie’s dad, Chuck Hebble.
Yes, he wrote, “each club/organization has its own private—and very secret—recipe.” “Many years ago, when my wife, Polly, and I left Minnesota, we wanted to have Bootlegs. We developed our own very simple recipe, which includes a container of frozen lemonade and a bunch of mint leaves. It’s a ‘substitute’ Bootleg—not quite as good as an original in Minnesota, but satisfying to a frustrated Minnesotan!”
I picked up ingredients for two Bootlegs: his Hebble Bootleg and a fresher take from the Kansas City-based blog Cookie and Kate. My wife, Sara, and I drank them side-by-side on our porch on Monday, a muggy day in Cincinnati. Both were dangerously refreshing. My first drink was gone in minutes, and I had to remind myself while sampling a second that it had a bourbon backbone and should be sipped, not chugged. Liberated from its country club context, this is an ideal front porch or backyard sipper. We would use either recipe again, but we agreed that we preferred the pool-drink simplicity of the Hebble Bootleg. Maybe that’s just because it makes us feel like we’re drinking with Charlie and Chuck.
Consider adding this easy cocktail with heartland bona fides to your summer repertoire. We’re planning to keep the family tradition alive by serving it this Fourth of July.
Hebble Bootleg Mix
Makes 6-8 drinks
1 12-oz. container frozen lemonade concentrate
A generous handful of mint leaves
Pour the lemonade concentrate into a blender, then add an equal amount of water. Add mint to the blender. (Use a lot!) Blend well. The mix will keep in the refrigerator for at least a few days, though it will look and taste freshest immediately after blending. It should make about a half dozen drinks—enough for a small gathering or a few days’ worth of happy hour drinks for two people. To make the cocktail, pour all ingredients, in order, into a rocks glass full of ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with mint if desired.
Makes 1 drink
2 oz. Bootleg mix
2 oz. gin, vodka, rum, or bourbon
2 oz. soda water
Sprig of mint, to garnish (optional)
Pour all ingredients, in order, into a rocks glass full of ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with mint if desired.