After debuting at a soda fountain in Atlanta in 1886, Coca Cola skyrocketed to becoming the world’s favorite soft drink. It’s not so popular as a cocktail mixer, though, because its strong caramel aromas can dominate liquor too easily. But as a simple mixer for a small selection of spirits, Coke hits the spot.
Otherwise known as a straightforward rum and Coke, the Cuba Libre combines 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 postcolonial import of choice, making it the signature drink of the modern Caribbean island-goer.
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.
Mix Coke with Kentucky or Tennessee bourbon and you have a Southern favorite that was first created in 1907, later establishing itself globally as a no-fuss cocktail-hour standby. Although purists may look down on whiskey and Coke as a low-brow libation, adding a dash of Angostura bitters gives the drink a serious edge. Use three parts Coke to one part whiskey—a sweet American corn bourbon is perfect for the job.
Because of the strong coke aroma, save the intensely flavored Scottish or Irish single malt—the subtlety would be lost. Whiskey and Coke is much less known in the United Kingdom unless you’re using a blended whiskey. Although distillers like 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’s less nuanced than dark liquors, vodka pairs with Coke pretty well and is one of the few cocktails in which Diet Coke works. 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, Mexico itself, specifically from a bar called La Capilla. It lets you enjoy the flavor of a tequila shot at a more leisurely pace. Run a slice of lime around the rim of an empty tall glass and dip the rim 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, keep it simple and don’t bother with the more defined flavors of anejo or reposado tequila.
Even though the Coke in a Long Island Iced Tea is something of an afterthought, without it, it wouldn’t taste like 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 combo of gin, vodka, tequila, rum, and triple sec. Sour mix or lemonade and a splash of Coke provide solace, but with so many competing liquors in play, no single flavor defines the cocktail.