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6 fancy cocktails you can make with Southern sodas

Photo: Megan Roth

The Southern Sipper at Atlas Restaurant in Atlanta


6 fancy, flavorful and fizzy cocktails you can make with Southern sodas

When we're looking for a refreshing cocktail, we often aim towards highballs, fizzy, low-alcohol sippers made with an array of sodas. To take our highball game up a notch, we've started incorporating classic Southern sodas for cocktails with a bit more grown-up flair. Here are six recipes to do so.

While a Jack and Coke is certainly serviceable — maybe even a bit nostalgic — it’s fair to say it's not the most complex or sophisticated of cocktails. So we reached out to a few Southern bartenders and beverage experts of various types, and got a few tips and tricks to give soda drinks mixed with alcohol a modern makeover.

Coca-Cola, Cheerwine and Blenheim Ginger Ale are all quintessentially Southern sodas that were our favorite refreshing summer drinks in childhood, and often turned into our go-to cocktail mixers in early adulthood. But what's the secret to turning them into something enjoyable with the addition of alcohol? “You don’t want the soda overpowering your spirit or vice versa,” said Ryan Meany, Chief Creative Officer of Charleston’s Virgil Kaine, when we asked him the secret to the soda cocktail. “Well done soda drinks are all about the right pairing and balance.”

Here are six contemporary soda cocktails that fit that bill: A grown-up whiskey and Coke, an all-Atlanta cocktail featuring the city’s first bitters company and first post-Prohibition rye whiskey, and others.

I’m Your Huckleberry
Jerry Slater of Flying Pig Hospitality and The Expat in Athens, GA
Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces rye whiskey, such as High Wire Revival Rye
1/2 ounce amaro, such as Averna
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Ice cubes
4 ounces Cheerwine
2 brandied cherries, for garnish

Place the whiskey, amaro and bitters in a Collins glass. Add ice to fill the glass and stir until chilled. Add the Cheerwine and garnish with the cherries. Serve immediately.
Want another fruity, whiskey-filled cocktail? Try this frozen drink

Midnight in Atlanta
Kristin Wingfield-Koefod, 1821 Bitters
Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces American Spirit Whiskey Resurgens Rye
1/2 ounce 1821 Bitters blackberry peppercorn shrub
1/2 ounce lemon juice
10 drops 1821 Earl Grey bitters
Ice cubes
Mexican Coke

In a Hawthore shaker, combine the whiskey, shrub, lemon juice and bitters. Fill the shaker with ice and stir until chilled. Strain the drink into a coupe glass and top with the Mexican Coke. Serve immediately.
Want another shrub-filled drink? Try this peachy cocktail
Virgil Kaine Ginger-Infused Bourbon with Blenheims Hot Ginger Ale
Ryan Meany, Chief Creative Officer, Virgil Kane
Makes 1 cocktail

South Carolina native Meany is partial to this drink, which incorporates the company’s bourbon infused with natural ginger for an added spicy punch.

3 ounces Blenheim Hot Ginger Ale
1 ounce Virgil Kaine Ginger-Infused Bourbon

Ice cubes
Lime wedge, for garnish

In your glass of choice, combine the ginger ale, bourbon and ice cubes. Stir gently to chill the drink, garnish with the lime wedge, and serve immediately.
Want an even simpler sipper? Try using Blenheim in a Moscow mule

Swamp “Gin”ger Fizz
Norton Christopher, beverage director, Sac-a-Lait
Makes 1 cocktail

Utilizing Louisiana’s homegrown Swamp Pop Jean Lafitte Ginger Ale, this cocktail is “super light and airy with a refreshing Caribbean aroma and a hint of swampy spice from locally grown nasturtium,” said Christopher. Basically, it's New Orleans in a glass.

Nasturtium Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
About 20 Nasturtium leaves
1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 ounces Oryza gin
1 large egg white
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1/2 ounce coconut milk
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce nasturtium simple syrup (above)
3 dashes orange water
Ice cubes
Swamp Pop Jean Lafitte ginger ale
Nasturtium leaves and flowers, for garnish

To make the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, heat the water to a bare simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, a
dd the nasturtium leaves and let steep for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain to remove the leaves. The syrup will be a light yellowish-green color.

To make the cocktail
Add all ingredients except the ginger ale and garnishes into a shaker. Shake for two minutes. Strain into a glass. Take about 4 ounces of the Swamp Pop Ginger Ale and swirl it in the remains of your shaker and strain that to top off the cocktail and pick up any residual egg white froth. Feel free to use a spoon to scoop out any “froth” left behind to top off the cocktail. Garnish with nasturtium leaves and flowers. Serve immediately.
Want to dry a totally different, but still egg-filled cocktail? Shake up a Two-Boil Flip

Southern Sipper
Carl Gilbert, bartender, Atlas
Makes 1 cocktail

The bitterness of the Fernet and brightness of the citrus cut the sweetness of this sophisticated bourbon sipper.

Honey-infused Cherry Coke syrup
16 ounces Coca-Cola
6 ounces cherry syrup, such as Luxardo Maraschino
4 ounces honey

2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
1 1/2 ounces honey-infused cherry coke syrup (above)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
Ice cubes
Mint leaves, for garnish

To make the Cherry Coke syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before using. The syrup will keep in the refridgerator for up to one week.

To make the cocktail: Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, Coke syrup, lemon juice and Fernet. Fill the shaker with ice and shake mildy. Pour into the prepared glass and garnish with the mint. Serve immediately.
Want a different variation on a Jack and Coke? Try our grown-up twist

Kentucky’s Dixie On Main
Grain & Barrel Spirits 
Makes 1 cocktail

The traditional vodka soda gets a local spin with Kentucky’s homegrown ginger- and citrus-infused favorite.

4 ounces Ale-8-1 soda
2 ounces Dixie Citrus vodka
Ice cubes
Lemon wedge, for garnish

In a glass, combine the Ale-8-1, vodka and ice. Stir to chill and garnish with the lemon wedge. Serve immediately.
Want a different Kentucky drink? Here's our classic Mint Julep recipe

Author image

Laura Scholz is a freelance writer with a passion for spirits and wellness who believes life, like a good cocktail, is best lived in balance. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, Eater Atlanta, Liquor.com, SevenFifty Daily, Simply Buckhead and Tales of the Cocktail. Laura is also a certified Pilates and TRX instructor who loves running, yoga, live music, traveling, hiking with her dog, and playing the piano and ukulele. She lives on Atlanta's Westside with her husband Tim and freely admits she does more singing, dancing and drinking than cooking in her Southern kitchen.