It started with a Moscow mule

The Moscow mule is a simple, tasty drink of vodka, ginger beer, and lime served in a drinking vessel designed to keep the beverage cold. The concoction was developed in the early 1940s by an unlikely collaboration: a vodka salesman with a product no one yet liked, a Cock ‘n’ Bull bar owner with too much ginger beer involved with a girlfriend with copper connections, and a bartender trying to tidy up the joint by cleaning up the basement. 

Michael Stepp and Matt Dennis were college buddies when this classic libation enjoyed a resurgence. As the story goes, Stepp ordered mugs online so he could properly serve and enjoy the cocktail, but upon arrival, they proved disappointingly chintzy. He crafted his own mug from scrap copper on a trip back home, showed it off to his friends, and was immediately inundated with requests. Stepp talked Dennis into building a proper set, and Handlebend was born. 

Handlebend hand-built copper mugs are well-crafted, giftable vessels that simply make drinks taste better. These storied mugs are the result of a masterful application of few materials and the melding of many great minds.

The partners work well together, creating not just unique products but jobs and a sense of collaboration and community in the north-central Nebraska town of O’Neill. Recently, the entrepreneurs purchased and moved into the historic Shelhamer building on Main Street. It’s now a copper shop and a hub for the community, serving local beers and libations to grateful customers. 

Hometown pride matters to these young business owners. “I am proud of the feedback and support we’ve gotten from Nebraska; it’s really helped legitimize the company from our perspective,” shared Stepp.  

So yes, a Moscow mule is a simple drink — but when you begin to swap out components, it becomes something else. Replace the vodka with local whiskey, the lime with orange, and the subpar glassware with an artisan copper mug lovingly handcrafted in your home state. You’ll have an expression of community, pride, and hard work.

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