The Southern Sipper at Atlas Restaurant in Atlanta
While a Jack & 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, owner, Flying Pig Hospitality, formerly of H. Harper Station
2 ounces rye whiskey, such as High Wire Revival Rye
1/2 ounce amaro, such as Averna
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
4 ounces Cheerwine
Place whiskey, amaro and bitters in Collins glass, add ice and stir to chill and combine. Add Cheerwine and garnish with two brandied cherries.
Midnight in Atlanta
Kristin Wingfield-Koefod, 1821 Bitters
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
Stir first four ingredients in Hawthorne shaker with ice. Strain into coupe glass and top with Mexican Coke.
Virgil Kaine Ginger Infused Bourbon with Blenheims Hot Ginger Ale
Ryan Meany, Chief Creative Officer, Virgil Kane
South Carolina native Meany is partial to this drink, which incorporates the company’s bourbon infused with natural ginger for an added spicy punch.
1 ounce Virgil Kaine Ginger-Infused Bourbon
3 ounces Blenheim Hot Ginger Ale
Lime wedge (garnish)
Pour ingredients in glass of choice with ice. Stir gently and garnish with a lime wedge.
Swamp “Gin”ger Fizz
Norton Christopher, beverage director, Sac-a-Lait
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.
1 1/2 ounces Oryza gin
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 (see below)
3 dashes orange water
1 large egg white
Swamp Pop Jean Lafitte Ginger Ale
Add all ingredients except ginger ale 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 eqq 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.
Nasturtium Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Nasturtium leaves (around 20)
Heat water in a small sauce pan. Add nasturtium leaves and allow to steep for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white sugar and let dissolve. Strain to remove leaves. The syrup will be a light yellowish-green color.
Carl Gilbert, bartender, Atlas
The bitterness of the Fernet and brightness of the citrus cut the sweetness of this sophisticated bourbon sipper.
2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
1 1/2 ounces honey-infused cherry coke syrup (see below)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake mildly, and pour into a rocks glass over crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Honey-infused cherry coke syrup
16 ounces Coca-Cola
4 ounces honey
6 ounces cherry syrup (we use Luxardo Maraschino)
Heat to a boil, lower to bare simmer for 20 mins and let cool. It will keep in the refridgerator for up to one week.
Kentucky’s Dixie On Main
Grain & Barrel Spirits
The traditional vodka soda gets a local spin with Kentucky’s homegrown ginger- and citrus-infused favorite.
2 ounces Dixie Citrus Vodka
4 ounces Ale-8-1 Soda
Pour into glass with ice and shake. Squeeze of 1/4 lemon for garnish.
Laura Scholz is a freelance writer with a passion for food and fitness. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Now, Eater Atlanta, The Love List, 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 the Westside with her husband Tim and freely admits she does more singing, dancing, and drinking than cooking in her kitchen.