Going to start this off with a couple hot takes. First, mixing whiskey and Coke is a delicious way to enjoy your favorite whiskey. Second, a whiskey and Coke can be considered a cocktail, and not just a efficient way to get a little drunk.
If you strongly disagree with either or both of those statements, this article probably isn’t for you. But if you are open to the idea that mixing whiskey and Coke isn’t just for college kids, let’s get to drinkin!
Understanding the Basics
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of mixing whiskey and Coke, let’s start with the basics. Not that pouring a little Coke into your glass of whiskey is overly complicated, but flavor-wise, there is quite a bit going on in this classic combo.
Whiskey is a rich, complex spirit with a wide range of flavors, while Coke brings a sweet and effervescent kick to the table. The key is finding the right balance between the two to create a harmonious marriage of tastes.
Choosing the Right Whiskey
Some whiskey purists may argue that the only “right” whiskey to mix with Coke is one that is so cheap or poor in taste that masking it with the strong flavors found in a cola is the only way to get it down. While slinging back cheap well drinks will always have its place, upgrading your spirit will always upgrade your cocktail.
The choice of whiskey, both in quality and style, can significantly impact the final outcome of your drink. Bourbon, with its caramel notes and slight sweetness, is a popular choice. Blended Scotches and Irish whiskeys are also a whiskey and coke staple, and bring a more muted, oaky and fruity flavor to the mix. However, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of whiskey, such as rye or blended varieties, to discover your personal preference. We’ll cover some of our favorite variations later on the article.
Grab a Glass
This may seem excessive, but choosing the right glass for your whiskey and coke can enhance the drinking experience. A classic rocks glass, also known as an old-fashioned glass, is a popular choice. Its wide rim allows for the aroma of the whiskey to be fully appreciated, while the heavy base provides stability for muddling and mixing ingredients.
Another option is a highball glass, which is taller and narrower than a rocks glass. This type of glass is ideal for those who prefer a lighter, more refreshing drink. Ultimately, the choice of glass comes down to personal preference and the occasion.
Perfecting the Ratios
Although so simple to make it can barely even be called a cocktail, there are still parts that need to be mixed in different proportions. So, let’s talk ratios.
A commonly recommended starting point is one part whiskey to three parts Coke. This ratio allows the whiskey to shine while complementing it with the refreshing flavors of Coke. We at Abov prefer all our cocktails to be whiskey forward, so we generally reverse that with 3 parts whiskey to one part Coke; just enough to add a little sweetness and carbonation.
Others suggest all parts whiskey with just a splash of Coke, or simply opening the Coke can next to a Glencairn of your favorite whiskey. To beauty is, you can adjust the proportions according to your taste buds—some prefer a stronger whiskey presence, while others enjoy a sweeter and milder concoction.
Ice, Ice, Baby
Adding ice to your whiskey and Coke can enhance the overall experience by chilling the drink and subtly diluting the flavors. Opt for large ice cubes or whiskey stones to prevent excessive dilution while maintaining the desired temperature.
Garnishing Like a Pro
While not necessary, adding a garnish can elevate the presentation and add a touch of complexity to your drink. A classic choice is a simple wedge of lime, which adds a refreshing citrus twist.
For a more adventurous twist, experiment with orange or lemon slices or even a maraschino cherry for a touch of sweetness. Mint maybe? A cinnamon stick? The options are endless!
Experimenting with Flavors: The Best Whiskey and Coke Variations
Generally speaking, whiskey and Coke drinkers just grab whatever bottle of value bourbon or blended whiskey they have around, but as said before, this doesn’t need to be the case. Swapping out different whiskeys and soda variations can open up an entire world of flavors. Here are some of our favorites:
Jack & Coke
Technically not really a unique combination, but one so popular that it got its own RTD canned version, we had to call out the Jack & Coke.
While very similar to bourbon, Tennessee whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s, undergo the Lincoln County Process of charcoal mellowing. In short, the resulting flavor is smoother, with toasted sweet notes that balance a Coke perfectly.
If a standard whiskey and Coke is too sweet for your liking, swap that bourbon or blend for a peated scotch from Islay. While the robust sweetness of cola will most certainly mask the more subtle notes of your favorite peaty dram, the earthy, smokey, peat flavors still power through.
The resulting smokey and sweet combination is truly something to be savored. Grab a Laphraoig 10 or Ardbeg Wee Beastie and get to sippin!
Bourbon & Vanilla Coke
If the vanilla sweetness that can be found in quite a few bourbons is more your style, dial that up to 11 be trading out classic Coca-Cola for a Vanilla Coke. It’s amazing what a little extra vanilla flavoring can do to completely alter the experience of this cocktail.
Noah’s Mill, Larceny Small Batch, and Maker’s Mark are all perfect bourbons that lean into vanilla notes and can benefit from the added kick.
Don’t hesitate to head north when selecting a whiskey, as there are plenty of great Canadian blends that will bring a unique taste to the mix.
Although most Canadian Whisky is predominantly made from rye, the production and flavor is less peppery and herbal than most American Rye Whiskey. Smooth and sweet, its a perfect counterpoint to your coke. Crown Royal is a go-to, but there are plenty of options out there.
Cask Strength Coke
The easy sipping and refreshing nature of whiskey and Coke is generally part of the appeal, but in our last recommended variation, the Coke can take a back seat.
Subbing out your standard whiskey for a higher proof, cask strength bottling can be a fun flavor experiment. Be careful with this one, as the sweetness (not to mention caffeine) from the Coke may make it harder to realize how much alcohol you are consuming. Throwing back multiple cask strength whiskeys is never advisable…
While not the most complex cocktail out there, and nobody will consider you an expert mixologist for making one, a whiskey and Coke is an often maligned drink that deserves a second look.
There are so many style and flavor profiles to both whiskey and cola in general, that the flavor combinations are endless. Although not for everyone, at Abov we are true believers in drinking whiskey the way that you like it. There is no shame in drinking your whiskey with Coke, no matter the whiskey!