Raise a Glass to Kate: Spirited Cocktails and a Latte Grit

If you’d like to wet your whistle with a nod to Greeley history, two downtown Greeley businesses are raising a glass—or a coffee cup—to Kate McHale Slaughterback, also known as Rattlesnake Kate.   

Featured in a recent Greeley Tribune article by Emily Kemme, you can find the Rattlesnake Kate latte at Aunt Helen’s Coffee House (800 8th Avenue), and the Rattlesnake Kate cocktail at 477 Distilling (825 9th Street). Both offerings intersect with the Greeley History Museum’s “Grit” campaign focused on Kate, who was born in 1893. She embodied an independent, western spirit with a larger-than-life story.  

A Greeley History Museum article says Rattlesnake Kate “was known to enjoy wearing pants instead of dresses and loved shooting guns and working hard. An independent lady, Kate was progressive for the time—she had married and divorced several times and had been a trained nurse and taxidermist. Rumor has it that she was also a bootlegger.” 

And, if that wasn’t colorful enough, an incident in October 1925 raised her story to epic levels. She and her three-year-old adopted son, Ernie, encountered more than 100 migrating rattlesnakes while out on horseback near her farm in Hudson, Colorado. Worried about Ernie and her horse, Kate killed the snakes using her .22 Remington rifle and, when she ran out of bullets, grabbed a nearby sign to club the remaining snakes. She went on to sew a dress from the snake skins (which you can see preserved in a case at the Greeley History Museum) and earned the name Rattlesnake Kate.  

“The community is taking this history theme and our Rattlesnake Kate story and helping promote it by developing menu items and sharing them on their social media,” said Rachel Egli, the City of Greeley’s content marketing supervisor. “It’s becoming a visitor experience with many layers.” 

According to Kemme’s article, the Grit campaign started with conversations among museum staff, when “grit” surfaced as a word that reflected Kate’s character.  

“(The word grit) reminded me of my grandmother, a plains woman living through the Depression and the Dust Bowl,” City of Greeley’s Museums Manager Chris Bowles said. “She had a daughter die of dust pneumonia. Nothing ever phased her, she had an attitude that, ‘we just keep going,’ much like other women of that generation. They took the good with the bad and kept moving forward.” 

To capture Kate’s indomitable spirit in a cocktail, Greeley’s 477 Distilling created a smoky combination of their 477 Bourbon, lime juice, agave syrup (just a touch of sweet), Strongwater Bonfire Bitters (lime zest, habañero, jalapeño, ghost and Hatch green chiles) and a sprig of rosemary for garnish. Just like its namesake, 477 promises the cocktail has a bit of a bite! 

Aunt Helen’s also mixed up a tribute to Kate’s “sweet and spicy” story with its Rattlesnake Kate latte, featuring amaretto and cinnamon with a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

Both 477 Distilling and Aunt Helen’s Coffee House are part of the city’s Greeley Grub menu.

“The museum is also designing coffee sleeves and cocktail coasters with a QR code to the museum’s blog post about Rattlesnake Kate,” wrote Kemme. “You can sip a latte or cocktail, click the QR code and ponder the colorful, gritty life of Rattlesnake Kate Slaughterback, one of the spicily sweet characters from Colorado’s history who is undoubtedly one of the most memorable.”