A whiskey and coke really isn’t half bad.
Article by Fred Minnick
There’s something about going to a baseball game.
The sounds of the stadium.
“Get your beer!”
“Peanuts, Cracker Jacks, cold beer…here.”
I love the crinkling of the bags, the crack of the bat, the pop of a 90-mile-an-hour fastball into the leather catcher’s mitt, and the fizzing sound of my whiskey and Coke.
Yes, despite all my snobbery, I love a good whiskey and Coke, and baseball games are where I treat myself to these.
I don’t like whiskey and Coke in the movie theater, at home, or even in the woods. It’s only at sporting events, perhaps because I am so entrenched in the game. It’s at those games that I still want a taste of whiskey without really thinking about it, and my dad took me to games as a kid and I enjoyed cola straight from the fountain, full of fizz and “acid,” as my aunt reminded me.
Whiskey and Coke really starts with the quality of the cola. You do not want any cola diluting your whiskey. No, it must bring something to the table. I am looking for good fizz and taste. Have you ever left an open pop bottle overnight and tasted it? Yeah, it’s flat and syrupy, making it a horrible whiskey companion.
As for what soda pops work best, well, I’m a Coca-Cola guy, but Pepsi’s strong, too, especially with higher-rye bourbons such as Old Grand-Dad and Four Roses. I highly recommend staying away from the Shastas and other generic sodas. They tend to create a bubble gum note when combined with whiskey, while Dr. Pepper brings out a pleasant spice in the whiskey. I don’t recommend diet colas, but some people swear by the combos.
If you’re a rum and Coke lover, the same general rules apply. The only difference: With rum and Coke, you squeeze a lime wedge. With whiskey and Coke, the whiskey needs no lime to accelerate flavor.
If the cola is coming from the gun behind the bar, you are rolling the dice, and your fizz is only as good as the restaurant’s attention to detail. I can’t tell you how many flat colas I’ve seen at fine dining establishments and great cola at fast food places. It should be flipped, right? Soda taps just seem to be hit or miss. When possible, use cola straight from the bottle or can, so you can twist or crack open to hear its potential.
Ice: A good whiskey and Coke is predicated upon good ice. You don’t want too little, such as a single small cube, and you don’t want too much, which would dilute and make watery. I also recommend avoiding small ice, such as Sonic’s size, and large cubes, which just take up too much surface area. Besides, let’s be honest, whiskey and Cokes are typically in a red Solo cup, not a fancy rocks glass. So, the standard tray or icebox-made cubes are perfect.
Now for the whiskey: This is an area completely dominated by price and availability. I don’t believe you should spend $30 or more on a whiskey you’re just mixing with Coke. If you use Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old in your whiskey and Coke, please don’t tell me, because I will instantly end whatever relationship we have. And I’m not sure, but I think it’s a state crime in Kentucky to do so.
You want whiskeys or rums that you can still taste in the Coke. If you pour vodka, you won’t taste the vodka. If you pour some whiskey blends, such as Seagram’s 7 Crown, you’re likely not tasting the whiskey because there’s so much neutral grain spirit in the whiskey’s creation. My top whiskeys for cola mixing are:
Crown Royal: This Canadian whiskey is on every bar, it seems, and is extremely affordable. But best of all, the whiskey comes through.
Jack Daniel’s: I actually think Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is the best whiskey-and-Coke choice out there. You’ll notice that the whiskey really shines, and a hint of banana surfaces.
Jim Beam White Label: When Jim Beam is combined with cola, I can really taste the oak notes from Beam. A Beam and Coke is a great pairing with barbecue.
Four Roses Yellow Label: At around six years old, Four Roses Yellow Label is the oldest of my picks for cola. But it’s in the same price range as others mentioned here. When it’s combined with Pepsi, complexity is born.
So there you have it. I untied my ascot and let loose. Whiskey and Cokes have my absolute approval. But don’t you dare mix cola with Pappy. If you do, the Kentucky attorney general would like to speak with you.