Coca-Cola in a glass bottle
If the Holy Grail was found in the South, we’re sure it would be full to the brim with glass bottles of Coca-Cola. The dark soda was created by pharmacist John S. Pemberton in 1886 and for the past 125 years, has been the sugary drink of choice in not only the South, but around the world. A classic glass bottle of Coke is full of history, evokes nostalgia, and can refresh even when the Southern sun is beating down in the middle of summer.
There is, however, an art to drinking Coca-Cola properly. Commandments, if you will. The next time you pop a glass bottle, make sure to keep these 10 rules in mind.
1. Don’t sip it at room temperature
Whether it’s in a bottle or poured over ice, a refreshing ice-cold sip of Coca-Cola is sure to cool you down even in the middle of summer. Coke simply isn’t meant to be consumed at room temperature. If you were to drink it straight off of the shelf (an unrefrigerated shelf, that is), you'd lose some of the qualities, such as its crisp flavor and fizz, for which the soda is known.
2. Do pop a couple of peanuts into your Coke for the perfect Southern snack
Every Southerner knows this combination is one of the easiest salty sweet snacks you can make. Simply take a few sips of Coke to make room and pour in a handful of salty nuts. This snack tradition goes back almost 100 years and was made popular by farmers who didn’t have time to stop for a lunch break, according to Serious Eats.
Keep in mind, you will need to make this treat using Coca-Cola Classic in a glass bottle. The taste and experience are simply not the same if you try to make it in a can or with a flavored version, such as Vanilla Coke.3. Do use it as a mixer to create cocktails like a Cuba Libre or a classic Jack and Coke
Cocktail connoisseurs know Coke is a versatile and flavorful mixer that can add sparkle and fizz to almost any cocktail. Whether you’re making a simple Jack and Coke, Cuba Libre or the more complex Long Island iced tea, Coke compliments and enhances the flavors of many different spirits. One of our favorite Coke cocktails that is perfect for warm summer days is the Frola, a frozen version of a bourbon and cola cocktail.
4. Don’t forget the ideal amount of ice
The Coca-Cola Company claims that if you drink Coke properly you’ll be able to experience it using all five senses. In this case, the ice awakens sight and a very distinct sound. If you’ve ever poured a Coke over a glass filled with ice you know the ice will crack, bubbles will form, and the soda will rise up, creating a crisp fizzing noise that brings a smile to our face every time. But you'll need to use the right amount of ice — two-thirds of the way up your glass — in order to produce that perfect crack, bubble and fizz.
5. Do add citrus
The bartender isn’t adding a slice of lemon or lime to the top of your Coke just as a garnish — they’re doing it to enhance the citrus notes found in the soda, and to add depth to its complex flavor. The next time if you order a Coke and it doesn’t have a slice of lemon or a squeeze of lime in it, try adding the citrus fruit to see if it improves its taste. We'll bet it does.6. Don’t forget how great it tastes in chocolate cake
Over the years Coke has found its way into many different recipes. You can use it as a marinade or glaze for meats (see below) or as a sweetener for baked beans, but one of our favorite ways to cook with Coke is by adding it to chocolate cake. Coke and chocolate pair perfectly in a moist, chocolate cake that we’d proudly serve at any Southern cook out. And if you’re worried about the cake being too sweet, we’ve cut down on extra toppings, like marshmallows, so you won’t end up in a sugar coma.
7. Do seek out the glass bottles
With the overuse of plastic in the world, it’s actually easier to find glass bottles of Coke on store shelves now than in recent decades. And environmental concerns aside, drinking an ice-cold Coke out of a glass bottle is truly an experience unlike anything else. For the ultimate glass bottle experience, seek out Mexican Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola de Mexico truly tastes like a Coke in “the old days” because it’s still made with real sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
8. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to reduce it into a syrupy glaze
Both Southern Kitchen's Jeffrey Gardner and chef Virginia Willis love using this Southern soda as a glaze for any meat under the sun. Willis learned from her grandmother how to use Coke as a glaze, along with a little brown sugar and mustard, to coat the outside of a spiral ham. As the ham cooks, the glaze caramelizes into a coating that is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. But definitely don't stop here. Try creating a Coca-Cola glaze for chicken wings and ribs too.
9. Do eat it with a barbecue sandwich, nachos or roast chicken
We’re not going to tell you when to not drink Coke, because there’s really never a bad time to enjoy it. However, we will point you in the right direction when it comes to Coca-Cola pairings. Start off by enjoying a Coke with a Southern favorite — a barbecue sandwich. If you’re doing some late-night snacking, we highly recommend a Coke to go with our leftover steak nachos. And yes, Coke goes very well with snack food, but it can also taste delicious when paired with fancier meals, like roast chicken or grilled New York strip steaks.
10. Don’t commit the ultimate sin: Sipping it with a fine Kentucky bourbon
Some might say they enjoy a glass of Coke with a splash of fine bourbon, but those people are wrong. Like we said before, we love using Coke in cocktails, but there are some lines you just don’t cross when it comes to mixing drinks. Go forth and mix it with Jack or Jim Beam, but Gardner believes that it’s a waste of good bourbon to mix it with Coke. After all, this prized liquor is meant to be enjoyed by itself. You won’t be seeing him add any Coca-Cola to his fine bourbon, whether it’s Booker’s, Weller or Pappy Van Winkle.
Photo credit (hero): Talles Alves / Unsplash
Photo credit (frola): Cooper's Craft
Photo credit (cake): Kate Williams
Photo credit (nachos): Ramona King