Without getting into a discussion of whether you should mix whiskey with anything to begin with, one must admit that an excellent mixer can hit the spot just right. Sodas are particularly good for this job because their carbonation can help emphasize aromas in whiskey that you may not notice otherwise.
A good ratio of soda to whiskey is 1:1 – it gives you the best of both worlds and usually tastes best when served over ice. However, feel free to play and make your drink “boozier” or sweeter.
Here are 15 pairing ideas to set you off, with a little bonus at the end.
1. 1893 Ginger Cola
This soda is everything you would wish for in a comforting Fall dessert, and it pairs well with any smooth, spicy, and slightly bitter type of whiskey. Considering how bold the taste is, you could get away with hiding the flavor of a brand you would not drink straight.
Don’t add ice to this one, and you’ll get extra spiciness. Otherwise, pour yourself a healthy slosh over a few cubes and top up with Pepsi at a 1:1 ratio.
Bottles to try: Monkey Shoulder, Bushmills 10 Years Old, Tamnavulin Double Cask.
2. Root beer
Root beer’s distinct vanilla and earthy notes will make all brands of whiskey work with it. Pick any bottle off the shelf or something very oaky and peaty.
Bottles to try: Jameson Irish Whiskey, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Old Ballantrual Peated Malt.
3. Moxie Cola
Most people don’t know this, but Moxie is the oldest mass-produced carbonated drink in the US, introduced way back in 1876. It can be a bit difficult to find in some areas, but it’s worth the effort for its unique buzz alone.
The drink has a bitter aftertaste, so it can do with some salty notes to balance it out.
Bottles to try: Old Pulteney 12 Years Old, Loch Lomond Original, Talisker 57 North.
4. 1893 Orange Cola
Colas already have distinct citrus notes somewhere in all that sugar. This drink allows it to come clearly to the forefront.
You can pick any whiskey off the shelf that suits your taste, but brands with strong citrus notes will keep everything vibrant and lively. This pairing will work well no matter if you add just a splash of cola into your glass, or do it the other way around by adding a splash of whiskey into the cola. It just depends on how saucy you feel that night.
Bottles to try: Dalmore 15 Years Old, Oban Little Bay, Kavalan King Car Whiskey.
5. Vanilla Coke
You can do anything with vanilla. Whatever you add it to will taste silky and sweet. With this foundation, you can take your drink creation in any direction that comes to mind. Try following the dessert route and finish the glass with preserved fruit or even a dollop of ice cream.
Bottles to try: Highland Park 12 Years Old, Glenmorangie Astar, Auchentoshan Valinch.
6. Cherry Coke
Cherries love dark chocolate, and thankfully, the world of whiskey is rich in liquid gold with distinct chocolate notes. Anything darker and smokier will work as well. And if you have in your collection something that is a tad too bitter for your taste, you can “get rid” of it by mixing it with both Cherry and Vanilla Cherry Coke.
Bottles to try: Glen Scotia Victoriana, Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Espresso Roast, West Cork Black Cask.
7. Diet Coke
Artificial sweeteners tend to have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, so it will not hurt to choose a whiskey with brighter notes to balance It out. Anything fruity will work as well.
Bottles to try: Kavalan Concertmaster, Glen Moray Elgin Classic, Paddy Irish Whiskey.
8. 1893 Blackcurrant Cola
Blackcurrant cola has this fantastic fresh fruitiness that needs something smooth to balance it over. Pick a whiskey that has intense chocolate and/or smokey notes.
Pour the cola over whiskey in the glass in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. Serve with or without ice.
Bottles to try: Johnnie Walker Black, Glen Moray Chardonnay, Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair.
9. Boylan Cane Cola
If you ever needed to know the answer to the question of “What’s the Rolls Royce of colas?” this is it. It’s a shame to cover the complex aromas you get from this drink, so pick a whiskey that’s either well balanced or has complimentary notes.
Bottles to try: Evan Williams Black Label, Okanagan Laird of Fintry, Jack Daniel’s Old No.7.
10. Ginger ale
As we’ve learned from Pepsi, ginger, and whiskey like each other. But when you pick Ginger Ale, you’ll get no cola notes, so it will be better to try a bottle that has more robust fruity notes.
Bottles to try: Teeling Blackpits, Tomatin 12 Years Old, Wolfburn the Kylver Series 3 -Purisaz.
11. 7Up and Sprite
Both of these drinks are lemon sodas, and if you’ve ever treated yourself to a Hot Toddy, you know how well whiskey and lemon work together.
If you want to imitate some of that winter magic:
- Start by infusing 8 ounces of soda with 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cloves.
- Leave for 15-20 minutes in the fridge for carbonation to do some infusion magic.
- Pour into 2 glasses with an ounce of whiskey and some ice each, and enjoy.
12. Club Soda
Good old club soda is flavor-free and with plenty of bubbles to lighten up and give life to a glass of whiskey. Not only will it not mask any of the notes and aromas, but it will also even bring them out to the surface.
Mix whiskey and club soda in equal amounts. Serve with or without ice.
13. Regular Colas
I decided to group these together since everyone pretty much already thinks of these first. However, they are definitely worth mentioning because they work very well as a mixer.
Coke and whiskey is a combo as old as… Coke portion of that mixer. It works because both drinks share some of the base notes, with Coke bringing a lot of sugar and citrus zing to the party as well.
Original Coke has a good balance of tartness and sweetness and will pair with every brand of whiskey. You can also play with ratios since there is not much room for things to go wrong. Just remember to add some ice into the glass since all mixes will taste better when chilled.
Bottles to try: Johnnie Walker Red Label, Kingsbarn Dream to Dram, Glenmorangie Allta, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Glendronach Parliament.
Pepsi is a lot sweeter than Coke, which makes it work with darker and smokier whiskeys. Still, you can pick whether to go with original, diet, cherry, or vanilla flavors following the same tips from the previous section. However, things become a bit more interesting when we start talking about the 1893 line.
14. Dr. Pepper
Since Dr. Pepper is a technically a cola, it will work beautifully with any brand of whiskey. However, we have all these other notes (i.e., almond, licorice, anise, etc.) that we can emphasize to get a unique experience.
Bottles to try: Stratheden, Johnnie Walker Platinum Label, Tomatin Cù Bòcan
15. Trader Joe’s Vintage Cola
This one deserves its own category.
TJ’s Vintage Cola is not getting raving reviews from contemporary palates. Still, it’s not a bad idea to try it out if you want to see what the GIs were longing for while preparing to storm the beaches of Normandy—or doing something more mundane like suffering in the summer heat.
It’s a pretty simple drink when it comes to its notes and will not overwhelm most whiskeys. Pair it with your favorite brand or with something with strong oak notes.
Bottles to try: HIghland Park Leif Eriksson, Yamazaki 18 Years Old, Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr.
Bonus: How to Turn Your Favorite Whiskey Soda MIX Into an Easy DIY BBQ Sauce
This method is straightforward, but it will work better with cola-based mixers. Still, feel free to experiment and see what makes your taste buds happy.
You will need:
- Your favorite whiskey-cola mixer. Don’t use sugar-free colas because the sugar substitutes will turn too bitter during the cooking process, and we need the real stuff to create a caramel.
- Salt, pepper, and cayenne.
- Garlic and onion powder.
- Whole star anise (optional, but will help bring out meaty flavors from beef and pork).
- Liquid smoke (you can skip it if you’re using a very smokey whiskey).
- Demi-glace (also optional, but it will bring both the umami and a pleasant stickiness to the sauce).
The amounts of each ingredient can be adjusted to suit your taste, but you can start with the recipe below and tweak from there.
- Place 2 cups of your favorite mixer into a pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil.
- Add salt, pepper, and a healthy pinch of cayenne (add more for heat), the star anise, as well as a teaspoon of each garlic and onion powder.
- Once you see bubbles, turn the heat down to medium-low and leave the sauce to reduce by at least half. Take it even further for a thicker, stickier sauce.
- When the sauce turns syrupy, fish out the star anise and melt in a tablespoon or two of demi-glace. You can add a knob of butter to turn this mixture into a plating sauce as well.
- Don’t forget to make a final check and adjust for seasoning. Finish with a few drops of liquid smoke.
The finished sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container.
There you go, the ultimate list of sodas to mix with whiskey. This list will have something for everyone, but if you are still undecided, definitely try root beer. It is a match made in heaven. And, if you add in a squirt of vanilla, it’s divine.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss Top 6 Chasers For Alcoholic Beverages.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.