First sold at a soda fountain in Atlanta in 1886, Coca Cola is now globally ubiquitous as a soft drink, but somehow struggles to replicate the broad appeal as a cocktail mixer. Coke’s strong caramel aromas can dominate cocktails too easily. However, as a simple mixer for a small selection of spirits, Coke hits the spot perfectly.
Otherwise known as a straightforward rum and Coke, the Cuba Libre reunites sugary soda with a spirit distilled from sugar cane, usually with a dash of lime juice for tartness. Culturally, the Cuba Libre marries the economic driving force of the colonial West Indies, rum, with the post-colonial import of choice, making it the signature drink of the modern Caribbean vacationer and others.
For a cleaner, crisper drink, track down a bottle of Mexican Coke, which uses sugar cane instead of corn syrup. So-called ‘MexiCoke’ is less cloying than the American version. Serve the drink with a 2-to-1 Coke-to-rum ratio, mixed in a highball glass with ice and a slice of lime.
Take Atlanta’s most famous soda and mix it with Kentucky or Tennessee bourbon, and you have a Southern favorite that was first identified as a cocktail in 1907, later establishing itself globally as a no-fuss cocktail hour standby. Although purists may look down on whiskey and Coke as a cocktail that panders to a childish palate, adding a dash of Angostura bitters goes some way to giving the drink a serious edge. Use a three parts Coke to one part whiskey mix, with a sweet American corn bourbon that is perfect for the job.
Because of the strong coke aroma, there is little point in using an intensely flavored Scottish or Irish single malt, as the subtlety will be lost. Whiskey and Coke is much less known in the United Kingdom unless you are using a blended whiskey. Although distillers such as Jack Daniels produce premixed cans of whiskey and Coke, the alcohol content is low at around 5 percent, and the mixture gains nothing from long months in a can.
With a flavor that is less layered than dark liquors, vodka pairs with Coke quite effortlessly and is one of the few cocktails where Diet Coke can be substituted as a viable alternative. However, sugar-free mixers can be more potent than straight sodas, possibly because the sugar in soda stimulates the stomach to absorb alcohol at a slower rate. Mix two parts Coke with one part vodka in a highball glass with ice and a lime wedge.
The Batanga hails from the town of Tequila itself, specifically from a bar called La Capilla and evokes the clash in flavors of a tequila shot, enjoyed at a more leisurely pace. Run a slice of lime around the rim of a tall glass and dip the edge in a good quality salt. Load the glass with a substantial amount of ice and fill it halfway with blanco tequila, topping it off with Coke. As with whiskey, there is little point in reaching for an anejo or reposado tequila, where the flavors are more defined.
Even though the Coke in a Long Island Iced Tea is something of an afterthought, without it, the flavor would not be reminiscent of iced tea, which oddly doesn’t feature in the eponymous cocktail at all. First blended in the early 1970s at the Oak Beach Inn in Long Island, the cocktail brings together a formidable combination of gin, vodka, tequila, rum and triple sec in the first instance. Sour mix or lemonade and a splash of Coke provide solace, but with so many competing liquors in play, no single flavor is allowed to define the cocktail.