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zillah

Zillah’s Comprehensive (but not exhaustive) Guide to Whiskey and Soda!

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zillah

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!

Continued below...

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zillah


The Jack and Coke

What better combination to start with than the most popular whiskey and soda drink: the jack and coke. It is what I cut my teeth on and I am sure many others have had as well. Despite many thinking that those who drink Jack and Coke’s are either J.D. Sallinger wannabe’s or uninformed, tasteless Americans, the combination is actually amicable. The strong caramel and corn syrup flavors of coke pair perfectly with the creamy and sweet high corn mashbill of JD. I will even say that this combo requires the use of standard, corn syrupy coke. Mexican coke just doesn't taste the same, although still delicious.

Sazerac and Birch Beer

Birch beer is a popular soft drink in the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the United States (mostly Eastern PA) made from birch bark syrup and has a strong licorice flavor. It is perfect to match the licorice like flavors that would be found in a sophisticated rye such as Sazerac.

Four Roses Small Batch and Root Beer

Much like birch beer, root beer takes the licorice flavor one step forward by adding other similar flavors such as mint (Barq’s), sasparilla (Bundaberg) and cream (A&W). All these subtle flavors mingle perfectly with the soft minty, licorice, and (dare I say) creamy root beer flavors of the Four Roses Small Batch.

Elijah Craig 12 Year and Cream Soda

Diluted and with age, Elijah Craig 12 year is a wood bomb – full of vanillin. Cream soda is quite simply sugar and vanilla. So, what a better combination than to add more of the generous usage of vanilla to cream soda? Zillah’s favorite!

Bulleit Rye and Gentiana (Moxie)

Gentiana root may sound too sophisticated and pretentious but if you are familiar with the drink Moxie, then you are familiar with Gentiana root! A New England type of drink, Moxie (like other gentian drinks) is quite bitter. I find Bulleit Rye to stand in perfectly with Moxie, as the salty, dill pickle flavors do a good job of toning down the bitterness and bringing the sweet floral notes out.

Old Grand Dad and Ginger Ale

Ginger ale is probably one the most popular whiskey mixers, as ginger has quite a strong taste to it that can help mask a finish of ethanol burn. With that said, I say ginger does a great job of pairing with spicier rye bourbons. A ginger ale that is an often favorite of Kentuckians, Lexington’s own Ale-8-One and OGD is a great combo.

Wild Turkey Rye 101 and Ginger Beer

Ginger ale is nice, but it is a soda that has often fell victim to the mass production of chemical flavors and corn syrup. A topic I could go on and on but for simplicity: Ginger beer is the last bastion of hope for a natural, high quality ginger kick, and real spicy whiskey is needed. That is why Wild Turkey Rye 101, with its spicy citrus notes, and ginger beer pair perfectly together. Zillah’s favorite!

Elmer T Lee and Lemon Lime soda (Sprite)

When I heard Elmer did this, I chuckled. I found Elmer to be great in ginger ale, but I think Elmer had a thing against those from Lexington so he drank his bourbon with lemon lime soda. I think this pairing is even better than ginger ale! Lemon lime soda compliments the perfect amount of sweet and sourness that the ETL profile is known for without ruining the finish with any spiciness of the ginger.

Bulleit Bourbon and Lemon Verbana (Inca Kola)

Living in an area that has a good amount of a Mexican population, finding weird and fun South American sodas has become a side hobby of mine. Lemon Verbana, an herb native to South America, is used to make Inca Kola, which is one of the weirdest and rewarding sodas I have found. Its bubblegum and vanilla notes are perfect for Bulleit Bourbon.

Buffalo Trace and Malta

Malta is…weird. It tastes like Guinness and Budweiser put together if you took out the alcohol. Which makes sense considering the cola is usually called “young beer.” It is made exactly like beer but does not have alcohol and has added corn syrup for sweetener. Turns out this stuff is really popular in South America with tons of brands! I find the sweet corn, chocolate and coffee like notes pair perfectly with similar notes in Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Weller Special Reserve and Tamarind (Jarritos)

Sour, tangy and sweet. That is what I would characterize for both and it turns out together they go swimmingly. Zillah’s favorite!

Virgin Bourbon 101 and Cherry Soda (Cheerwine)

Cheerwine is a regional product of the south-Atlantic states, specifically the Carolinas. It is a cherry flavored soda that I think goes well with Virgin Bourbon 101, a bourbon that has a cherry flavor of its own, and is similarly only distributed around the Carolinas. If you are outside of the Carolinas and can find other cherry sodas, just consider adding any other Heaven Hill bourbons!

Wild Turkey 101 and Orange Crème Soda

The citrus and creamy corn notes of Wild Turkey 101 mimic that of Orange Crème soda. A fun combination!

Jim Beam White and Grape Soda

When you are in the ghetto, there is no shortage of purple drink. (purple colored soda often titled grape-flavored soda) If you can find bourbon in the local liquor store on the corner, you most likely will have to go with Jim Beam White. Fortunately, Jim Beams grape and cough syrup like finish pairs perfectly with the overly sweet grape sodas.

Old Forester Signature and Almond Soda

While I have yet to find an actual almond soda, you can make your own by adding orgeat syrup and carbonated water. I think the nutty notes found in Old Forester are a perfect accompaniment to almond syrup.

Any whiskey and Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper is a soda that is purported to have 23 flavors. I don’t even think, if you were to count all of the unique whiskey mashbills, that you could get 23 whiskies to match! I say, any whiskey will go with Dr. Pepper. If you had to pick one, what would be the best whiskey? I would say the best whiskey is an infinity/solera blend that you all tend to make which will have anything but everything.


And that concludes what I have tried over the years, and so much more wait to be discovered - like the multitude of fruit sodas out there. With that said, do you like whiskey and soda? I know you do. Don’t be shy. Admit it. Tell us what whiskey and soda combo you like!

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tanstaafl2

Bulleit Bourbon and Lemon Verbana (Inca Kola)

Living in an area that has a good amount of a Mexican population, finding weird and fun South American sodas has become a side hobby of mine. Lemon Verbana, an herb native to South America, is used to make Inca Kola, which is one of the weirdest and rewarding sodas I have found. Its bubblegum and vanilla notes are perfect for Bulleit Bourbon.


And that concludes what I have tried over the years, and so much more wait to be discovered - like the multitude of fruit sodas out there. With that said, do you like whiskey and soda? I know you do. Don’t be shy. Admit it. Tell us what whiskey and soda combo you like!

Having had Inca Cola in Peru I can say there was absolutely nothing that sprang to mind that was bad enough to want to mix with it. Bubblegum doesn't even begin to describe it! It is bubblegum on steroids. Leaves your whole mouth feeling like it was coated with glycerin. That said I suppose Bulleit is blah enough to risk mixing with it although I don't know that any whiskey can salvage that flavor profile.

Now I do confess to being an ETL (or most any mid shelf bourbon) and Sprite fan on occasion. It has also been a good way to finish up a bottle that doesn't really excite me much. Heck, even the BTEC Rice bourbon was improved with a splash of Sprite! And a good ginger beer works well with rye and spicier bourbons for me.

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dcbt

Just reading that list above makes me want to brush my teeth. Ugh.

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squire

I don't mix any whisky with soda water because it contains sodium the taste of which for me isn't masked. Sodium free Seltzer works fine though.

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TunnelTiger

Zillah I must say it was just plain entertaining reading the entire post. In fact so much so that I'm going to back and read it again.

Thanks.

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zillah
Zillah I must say it was just plain entertaining reading the entire post. In fact so much so that I'm going to back and read it again.

Thanks.

Thanks! Make sure to brush your teeth again when finished. :cool:

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Phil T

Interesting and fun post, thanks alot. I have never been a soda and whiskey drinker, but that will change. Not sure when I will start experimenting, but I will report back here when I do.

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smokinjoe

Fun read. Like my buddy Phil, I don't do much mixing with coke (Here Down South, coke pretty much covers everything and means the same as soda and pop for the rest of y'all :D). But, I do fancy a bourbon or rye with ginger. And, I used to drink a fair amount of 7&7's in my younger days. So, maybe you have provided me an excuse to step out a bit this weekend. Something with root beer has me intrigued...

Nice job, Z. I appreciate you putting the time and thought into this, and then sharing.

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smknjoe
I don't do much mixing with coke (Here Down South, coke pretty much covers everything and means the same as soda and pop for the rest of y'all :D).

Yep, people from around here think I'm crazy if I ask what kind of coke they want from the store...or if I ask for sweet tea (which I learned to stop asking for about 10 years ago.)

...and thanks for the OP...

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mbroo5880i

Fun post Zillah. I don't generally mix with anything other than a little water on occasion. However, some of your mixes give me ideas for how to work through a few bottles that I would like to empty quicker. I have a WSR that I would like to empty and the local Kroger has Jarritos on sale.

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AaronWF

Four Roses Small Batch and Root Beer

Much like birch beer, root beer takes the licorice flavor one step forward by adding other similar flavors such as mint (Barq’s), sasparilla (Bundaberg) and cream (A&W). All these subtle flavors mingle perfectly with the soft minty, licorice, and (dare I say) creamy root beer flavors of the Four Roses Small Batch.

Elijah Craig 12 Year and Cream Soda

Diluted and with age, Elijah Craig 12 year is a wood bomb – full of vanillin. Cream soda is quite simply sugar and vanilla. So, what a better combination than to add more of the generous usage of vanilla to cream soda? Zillah’s favorite!

Wild Turkey Rye 101 and Ginger Beer

Ginger ale is nice, but it is a soda that has often fell victim to the mass production of chemical flavors and corn syrup. A topic I could go on and on but for simplicity: Ginger beer is the last bastion of hope for a natural, high quality ginger kick, and real spicy whiskey is needed. That is why Wild Turkey Rye 101, with its spicy citrus notes, and ginger beer pair perfectly together. Zillah’s favorite!

Elmer T Lee and Lemon Lime soda (Sprite)

When I heard Elmer did this, I chuckled. I found Elmer to be great in ginger ale, but I think Elmer had a thing against those from Lexington so he drank his bourbon with lemon lime soda. I think this pairing is even better than ginger ale! Lemon lime soda compliments the perfect amount of sweet and sourness that the ETL profile is known for without ruining the finish with any spiciness of the ginger.

Jim Beam White and Grape Soda

When you are in the ghetto, there is no shortage of purple drink. (purple colored soda often titled grape-flavored soda) If you can find bourbon in the local liquor store on the corner, you most likely will have to go with Jim Beam White. Fortunately, Jim Beams grape and cough syrup like finish pairs perfectly with the overly sweet grape sodas.

Zillah I think you're right on with the combos above. Not speaking from experience here, but these make a lot of sense to me, especially the FRSmB with Root Beer. I think I may have to try this on vacation in a little over a week. I'm pretty sure the SmB is easy to find in Florida?

Also your EC12/Cream soda combo gives me a great idea to help finish a bottle of ECBP batch 2 that has been open for waaay too long. If I ever drink JBW again, I will definitely seek out grape soda with it!

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sutton

Hey Zillah great post and thanks for the ideas! I'm not a big soda drinker, so have mainly stuck with colas or ginger ale if I mix. I use various bitters at times to change things up ... maybe time to find some root beer or Dr. Pepper!

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Phil T

Alright. Going shopping today, and look for the following:

Ale-8-one, Birch Beer, Jarritos

I chose these 3 because I have the whiskey to match up.

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TunnelTiger
Thanks! Make sure to brush your teeth again when finished. :cool:

I brush my teeth by having OGD114 in my coffee. :grin:

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Young Blacksmith

Nice post Zillah!

I love the ginger ale and bourbon or rye combo, especially with a few dashes of bitters thrown in. Lots of ice, and I am a happy man on the back porch!

I'll be picking up some Tamarind soda to try with WSR too, sounds really good. I usually don't like adulterating my Dr. Pepper though, so that one may have to wait.... ;)

I even do scotch and club soda on ice.

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Phil T

Alright z. I picked up some Ale-8-one over the weekend. Admittedly, I'm not a fan of ginger ale, but this one I like, probably because of the muted ginger flavor. It is a glorious, sunny, Ohio day, not a cloud in the sky, and I have the day off. Sooooo, I broke out the OGD BIB, the ginger ale and am enjoying this quite a bit as I consider what to have for lunch. Again, much thanks for the ideas.

***as a side note, do you think Squirt would be a decent substitute for Jarritos?

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zillah
Zillah I think you're right on with the combos above. Not speaking from experience here, but these make a lot of sense to me, especially the FRSmB with Root Beer. I think I may have to try this on vacation in a little over a week. I'm pretty sure the SmB is easy to find in Florida?

Also your EC12/Cream soda combo gives me a great idea to help finish a bottle of ECBP batch 2 that has been open for waaay too long. If I ever drink JBW again, I will definitely seek out grape soda with it!

ECBP would sound divine.

Funny think about JBW. The combo was born out of necessity, rather than experimentation. A friend had some Welch's grape soda on hand and refused to drink something straight. He didn't live in a particular nice neighborhood, so JBW was the best I could get and it turned out I really liked the combo.

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zillah

***as a side note, do you think Squirt would be a decent substitute for Jarritos?

Never heard of squirt. Sounds like it would be really good though, report back if you try it!

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tanstaafl2
Never heard of squirt. Sounds like it would be really good though, report back if you try it!

I think Squirt is a slightly grapefruit/citrus based beverage. Jarritos as I recall came in multiple flavors. Haven't seen Squirt in years.

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Phil T
I think Squirt is a slightly grapefruit/citrus based beverage.

That's exactly what it is Bruce. It is readily available in our area, and a truly refreshing soda

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Golzee

This thread has got me thinking. I am going to try a few, I'm not too proud to admit that I mix with soda on occasion. EC12 and cream soda sounds weird in a good way. I tend to stay away from cream soda as I have drank way too many expired cans at my grandmas. Also, JBW and grape has got me confused. I have been known to drown my coke in JB, never thought about using grape drank.

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