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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Toronto, Canada

    Bourbon and Coke Started ... When??

    I am trying to understand when, or approximately when, bourbon and coke became an accepted mixed drink and part of Southern lore.

    Like a lot of things, I suspect its antiquity is not that great.

    Coca-Cola was invented in the late 1800's. Its large-scale success began though in the early 1900's and I would think in particular from the 1920's. The rise of Coke was probably assisted by Prohibition and the search for an acceptable, flavourful, "stimulating" alternative to liquor. But its rapid growth surely also was aided by then emerging modern business methods including sophisticated national advertising techniques.

    In all the reading I have done, in books, periodicals and online, I cannot recall ever reading that someone mixed whiskey with a soft drink before Prohibition.

    E.g., one might think it was a practice in the 1910's and earlier to mix bourbon or other whiskey with sasparilla, ginger ale, root beer or Coca-Cola. But was it?

    The first I have read of whiskey being mixed with a soft drink, ginger ale in this case, was in a 1930's novel by Frank O'Hara. He wrote - it was in Voyage to Samarra - about people in a country club during the later part of Prohibition who mixed whiskey from small bottles with paper stamps (i.e., the so-called medicinal whiskey which should not have been used recreationally) with ginger ale or White Rock (sparkling water).

    Before 1920, almost certainly people would have mixed White Rock and similar waters (e.g., "Polly", or Appolonaris) with bourbon and rye. In the U.K. the habit was to mix whisky or brandy with such waters and a similar practice would have existed in the U.S. viz. its own spirits.

    ("Brandy and soda old boy", as the late Who drummer Keith Moon used to say in parodying the habits of the class he was - paradoxically - seeking also to emulate).

    So when did soft drinks and liquor first meet in the U.S.? I would think this must have happened during Prohibition, when (supposedly anyway) dubious hooch was disguised with mixes of various kinds: it is not that far a stretch to think people finally added the real stuff to the same Coke and ginger ale.

    But can anyone show a citation of a bourbon and cola or rye and cola drink from before the 1960's? I first recall reading that bourbon and coke was a typical southern drink in a contemporary novel in the 1970's, the comment was that it was a great drink but rather fattening (true I guess). This would suggest to me it had taken root at least by the 1960's. But again, how far back does the mixture go...?

    Last edited by Gillman; 08-23-2007 at 15:34.



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