Bourbon and Coke is a staple for any bourbon fan. Who could resist that mixture of sweetness balanced with the heady notes (especially from barrel-aged bourbon)? It’s a combo that bourbon drinkers love worldwide.
But if you’re getting a little tired of the standard, we’re here to help. In this article, we’re breaking down all the things you never knew you wanted to know about bourbon and Coke. We’ll also help you out with some ways you can tweak this standby recipe to be more bespoke.
A Brief History of Bourbon and Coke
No one has ever officially laid claim to making the first bourbon and Coke cocktail. But we’ve got a few leads that are great fun facts for your next round of bar trivia:
- The first known mention goes all the way back to 1907. Dr. Lyman Kebler was head of the drug lab division of the United States Bureau of Chemistry. He found that the owner of a soda fountain near a military base would serve Coca-Cola to soldiers, who would then mix it with bourbon. Back then, it was known as a “Coca-Cola high ball.”
- Coca-Cola high balls most likely grew in popularity during Prohibition as a way to hide alcohol from the Feds.
What’s the Recipe for a Bourbon and Coke?
The basic bourbon and Coke recipe is a 1:1 ratio served over ice in a high ball glass. Cocktail lovers have been tweaking this since the first bourbon and Coke landed on a bar. If you want to get fancier with your presentation, try using clear ice cubes or even rocks instead of ice (for a literal bourbon and Coke on the rocks).
How to Tweak the Classic Bourbon and Coke Cocktail
- Add citrus - Try adding complimentary citrus juices to your cocktail. Orange, lemon, and lime juices are the most popular (and their rinds make an excellent addition to the presentation).
- Try a splash of amaretto - Amaretto is a liquor that has a strong almond taste with hints of vanilla. It adds a complexity to your cocktail that isn’t too overpowering.
- Try cherry Coke - If plain old bourbon and Coca-Cola Classic isn’t your thing, try mixing it up by using a flavored Coke. Cherry, cherry vanilla, or orange vanilla are all good options. If you’ve got flavored syrups lying around, feel free to add a pump to your cocktail (we’re a fan of raspberry-flavored syrups for bourbon and Coke).
What Else Does Bourbon Mix With?
- Ginger Ale - Bourbon and ginger ale is a great combination for those who don’t want to mix caffeine with liquor. If you don’t have ginger ale, try a ginger beer or even ginger-flavored syrup.
- Lemon - Using a twist of lemon in bourbon brings out the woody notes in bourbon. It’s especially popular with cocktail enthusiasts who don’t want a “chemical-y” taste in their drink.
- Apple Cider - This combination is a fantastic mix for the holiday season.
- Coffee - No judgment.
- Club Soda - If you just want to add a little fizz without losing much of the taste, try putting a spritz of club soda in your bourbon.
Are There Other Cocktails that Feature Bourbon?
If you want to expand your bourbon cocktail catalog, give one of these classic drinks a try:
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Garnish: orange peel
- Add the sugar and bitters to a rocks glass, add the water, and stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved.
- Fill the glass with large ice cubes, add the bourbon, and stir.
- Run the orange peel around the rim so that the oil sits atop the glass.
- Add the peel into the drink and serve.
- 2 ounces bourbon or rye
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Garnish: brandied cherry
- Add the bourbon (or rye), sweet vermouth and both bitters to a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with a brandied cherry.