The Bootleg Cocktail, Minnesota’s signature summertime cocktail, is a super lovely balance of sweet and tart, with freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices, plus a bit of orange. Fresh mint adds a sweet, cooling flavor. And club soda provides the bubbly finish. Mix with vodka or your favorite alcohol, or enjoy as a mocktail!
Easy Bootleg Cocktail
It’s August, and it’s HOT here in the Midwest. Which means it’s high season for enjoying a Bootleg Cocktail, Minnesota’s signature cocktail!
This drink is the ultimate in summertime refreshment, a super lovely balance of sweet and tart. It features a load of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices, plus a little bit of orange. Fresh mint adds a sweet, cooling flavor. And club soda provides the bubbly finish.
It’s perfect on a hot summer’s evening enjoyed outside, ice-filled glasses sweating from the heat.
You’ll most commonly see this bootleg drink made with vodka, but you can use any booze you like. I especially like this drink with either bourbon or gin. Bourbon and fresh citrus make a gorgeous flavor combo – so good in a classic whiskey sour or a bourbon margarita.
You can also enjoy a bootleg mocktail, without the alcohol. It’s fantastic. Our family enjoys these all summer long!
Why You’ll Love This Citrus Cocktail
Fresh, sweet/tart, and a little bubbly, you’re going to love this bootleg drink. Here are a few reasons why I keep this recipe handy:
- Sweet and tart and refreshing. The bootleg cocktail is ultra refreshing with fresh mint and sweet/tart citrus juice. And bubbly club soda adds a fun, lightened-up effect that stretches out the cocktail so it’s not overly boozy.
- Easy to make. You can whip up the bootleg mix in advance and keep it for a few days in your fridge so you can put together a fresh bootleg cocktail whenever you want it!
- Adapt to what you have. You can easily play around with the amount of juices, including more of what you like, less of what you don’t.
- Go cocktail or mocktail. I love a drink that’s versatile. Throw in vodka or your favorite liquor for a kick, or skip the alcohol and top the juice mix with club soda.
- Great for entertaining. This recipe makes enough bootleg mix for 10 drinks – it’s the perfect versatile drink for entertaining!
What Is a Bootleg Cocktail?
The bootleg cocktail (aka as the bootlegger cocktail) is a citrus and mint cocktail that’s made with vodka (or other alcohol) and sparkling club soda for a bubbly finish. It has long been known as Minnesota’s signature cocktail, and I was first introduced to it at the Minnesota State Fair – it’s featured as one of our favorite Minnesota State Fair drinks!
The origins of the bootleg date back to Prohibition on Lake Minnetonka. During this time when alcohol was outlawed in the United States, bootleggers made and sold it on the sly. Hence the name “bootleg” for this drink.
Way back in the day, it’s said that famous personalities such as mobster Al Capone and author F. Scott Fitzgerald sipped on this drink. And because this cocktail is so darn delicious, it has stood the test of time here in Minnesota. You’ll find this super popular summertime libation on many area cocktail menus.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to make a bootleg cocktail. First you create a sweetened citrus and mint Bootleg Mix.
Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the exact ingredient amounts.
BOOTLEG MIX (ENOUGH TO MAKE 10 DRINKS)
- Lemon juice & zest – Freshly squeezed juice is essential for the brightest, best flavor. And zest adds deeper citrus notes.
- Lime juice & zest – Fresh lemon and lime are the main flavors in this drink.
- Orange juice & zest – This citrus is added in a smaller amount, a nice complement to the lemon and lime.
- Simple syrup – To add some sweetness. See below for how to make an easy simple syrup.
- Mint leaves – Mint adds a sweet, cooling flavor to the drink. It’s wonderful paired with citrus!
Once you have the Bootleg Mix made (the pretty mixture on the left in the photo above), then you can make individual cocktails. Here’s what you’ll need:
BOOTLEG COCKTAIL (SINGLE COCKTAIL)
- Bootleg Mix – Keep the mix nice and cold.
- Vodka – You can use vodka, gin, light rum, or bourbon to make this cocktail.
- Club soda – For a bubbly sparkle that stretches out the drink so it’s not overly boozy, perfect for summertime sipping.
- Lime wedge and mint – To garnish the drink.
What Type of Liquor is in a Bootleg Drink?
You’ll most often see vodka in a bootleg cocktail because it provides a nice neutral backdrop to the vibrant citrus juice and mint.
But, really, you can use what you personally like. In our house, Blake prefers vodka. I mix mine with either bourbon or gin. Rum is also good!
How to Make a Bootleg Cocktail
Here’s my quick blender method for making the bootleg cocktail mix.
- Make the Bootleg Mix: Place the juice of zest of the lemons, limes, and oranges into a high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Add the simple syrup and mint, and pulse to lightly chop the mint.
- To make a Bootleg Cocktail: Add vodka (or booze of choice) and Bootleg Mix to a 10-12 ounce glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.
Tips & Variations
Here are a few tips plus some variation ideas you can try when making a bootleg cocktail:
- Use fresh citrus. I know, there’s a good amount of juicing to be done with this recipe. But trust me, it’s worth it. If you don’t want to do the juicing yourself, look for only fresh pressed juices without preservatives, for the best flavor.
- Make your own simple syrup. Simply boil equal parts water and sugar on the stovetop (I usually do 1 cup of each), and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then keep it in a covered jar or bottle in the fridge – it’ll last for at least a month!
- Don’t over blend the mint – When pulsing the mint for the Bootleg Mix, take care to not over blend. You still want to see some little bits of mint leaves.
- Prepare the mix in advance. The Bootleg Mix keeps well for up to 4 days. Just know that the bright green color of the fresh mint will fade as time goes on. For the freshest color when entertaining, do not make this more than 2 hours prior to serving.
- Skim out some of the mint leaves The chopped mint floats to the top of the drink as it settles – if you prefer less of the chopped mint, feel free to skim it off the top of the drink before enjoying it.
- Make a mocktail. The Bootleg Mix makes an excellent mocktail. Just mix it with club soda to your desired ratio. It’s also fun to use a combination of club soda and spicy ginger beer!
- Try different alcohols. Bourbon, whiskey, gin, or rum would all go nicely in place of the vodka in a bootleg cocktail.
- Keep a jar of bootleg mix in the fridge. For a refreshing cocktail anytime, keep a jar of bootleg mix minus the mint, in the fridge. Then muddle in fresh mint leaves when serving!
A bootleg cocktail is marvelous just sipped on its own, but I love it with appetizers. Here are a few ways to serve a bootleg drink:
- With an assortment of appetizers. Think dip for this perfectly sweet-tart cocktail! Some of my favorite savory dips include my classic guacamole, pico de gallo, shrimp dip, and million dollar dip recipes. Just offer chips or crackers, and you’re good to go. You could also make a Minnesota Happy Hour by serving bootleg cocktails with pickle roll ups (aka MN sushi!).
- As a brunch cocktail. A bootleg drink is lovely for brunch, if you feel like doing something other than a mimosa. Serve bootlegs with blueberry waffles, French crepes, banana bread muffins, and so much more.
- Along with other fruity cocktails. Want more fruity drinks? Try a rhubarb mojito, strawberry gin and tonic, peach mint julep, or watermelon margarita.
Can I Make a Pitcher of This Cocktail?
You absolutely can make a pitcher of bootleg cocktail!
Here’s how to make a pitcher of bootleg cocktail that will make enough for 10 cocktails: Add the entire bootleg mix to a large pitcher, along with 1¼ to 2½ cups liquor of your choice, plus 2½ cups chilled club soda. Give the mixture a stir, then divide between ice-filled glasses, about 5-6 ounces per cocktail.
If not making all 10 cocktails at once, omit the club soda from the pitcher and then top each drink with 2 ounces of club soda – this will ensure lively bubbles.
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Bootleg Mix (enough to make 10 drinks)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon loosely packed fresh lemon zest
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon loosely packed fresh lime zest
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon loosely packed fresh orange zest
- 1 cup simple syrup (see Notes below)
- 2 tablespoons small-chopped fresh mint leaves
Bootleg Cocktail (single cocktail)
- 2 ounces chilled Bootleg Mix
- 1-2 ounces vodka, gin, light rum, or bourbon (see Notes below)
- 2 ounces chilled club soda
- fresh lime wedge and a sprig of fresh mint for garnish
- To make the Bootleg Mix: Place lemon juice and zest, lime juice and zest, and orange juice and zest in a high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds to fully incorporate the zest. Then add the simple syrup and mint, and pulse the blender just until the mint is chopped into very small bits. Take care to not over blend - you still want to see some little bits of mint leaves! Pour the mix into a jar and enjoy immediately in Bootleg Cocktails - or cover jar with a lid and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. For the freshest color when entertaining, do not make this more than 2 hours prior to serving - if made too far in advance, the vibrant green color of the mint starts to fade.
- To make a Bootleg Cocktail: Add Bootleg Mix and vodka (or booze of choice) to a 10-12 ounce glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.
To make simple syrup: Simply boil equal parts water and sugar on the stovetop (I usually use 1 cup each), and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then keep it in a covered jar or bottle in the fridge - it'll last for at least a month!
To make a pitcher of Bootleg Cocktail (for 10 cocktails): Add the entire Bootleg Mix to a large pitcher, along with 1¼ to 2½ cups liquor of choice, and 2½ cups chilled club soda. Give the mixture a stir, then divide between ice-filled glasses, about 5-6 ounces per cocktail. If not making all 10 cocktails at once, omit the club soda from the pitcher and then top each drink with 2 ounces club soda - this will ensure lively bubbles.
The chopped mint floats to the top of the drink as it settles - if you prefer less of the chopped mint, feel free to skim it off the top of the drink before enjoying.
The Bootleg Mix keeps well for up to 4 days. Just know that the bright green color of the fresh mint will fade as time goes on.
The Bootleg Mix makes an EXCELLENT mocktail. Just mix it with club soda to your desired ratio. It's also fun to use a combination of club soda and spicy ginger beer!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.