Some of us here may think that adding some bourbon to your soda or even soda to your bourbon is a bit sacrilege, but I’d say the practice stands the test of time. Did you know that Bourbon and other American whiskies share an American heritage with soda? While carbonated beverages were not invented in the US, the popularization of soda was. Thanks to businessmen in New York and Philadelphia selling carbonated mineral water and syrups of all kinds as early as the 19th century, soda fountains became a cultural phenomenon. Its proponents originally espoused the health benefits of the tonics and mineral waters used, so naturally soda fountains were often served right in pharmacies alongside medicinal alcohol to help sooth whatever ailed someone. Of course, the two would have been mixed sooner or later, which is where the differentiation between soft and hard drinks came from: soft drinks must have less than 0.5% alcohol and hard drinks would have more.
Alright - enough of the history lesson. If a historical perspective won’t convince you, can’t a guy just sit back, relax and have some cold bubbles with his whiskey? I usually like to use soda to help get rid of whiskey I don’t like, but I think after this guide, you will realize that soda and whiskey can be an experience that parallels a well-made cocktail and/or nice heavy, unadulterated pour.
The best thing about whiskey and soda is that it is easy. Buy soda. Buy whiskey. Pour together over ice. Stir. Drink. Garnish if you fancy. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. And while I do suggest you mix to your taste, I’d say a good rule of thumb for whiskey 90 proof or below is to use 1.5oz to 6 oz of soda and for 90 proof whiskey and above to use 1 oz to 6 oz of soda. The question is: what whiskey and soda? Cheap swill and some Sam’s Choice cola? NO! This is what this guide is for – to unlock some of the similarities between certain whiskies and certain sodas so your drink becomes less of an easy way to choke alcohol down and is elevated to something much more: a decadent experience.
Disclaimer about soda quality: You are inevitably going to wonder: “well Zillah, why no mention of the ultra-sophisticated craft sodas? Most of these are just variants of chemicals flavors and corn syrup…if you really wanted to be cool like me you would buy…” That’s nice of you to point that out Mr. Gourmand! I certainly didn't want you to get your pants in a tizzy. I don’t think it is my place to advise on “quality” when tastes are subjective, but I implore everyone to do a little bit of homework (and experimentation) about what they like best before advocating what sodas are better for someone else!