Thursday, August 29, 2013
A Public Service Announcement. The Real Jack and Coke
It has been estimated that most Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey is consumed with Coca Cola, over ice, in a combination consisting of one part Jack to four or five parts Coke (or, if you prefer, Pepsi). A lime wedge might be included if you're fancy.
It isn't just Jack Daniel's, of course. A lot of Jim Beam is consumed the same way. Ditto Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, and most other popular bourbons. This is not a criticism of people who mix whiskey with soft drinks. It's a venerable practice and the way you drink your whiskey, or anything else, is up to you. Although if you mix Pappy 23 with Coke in public, expect tears.
The typical Jack and Coke is a form of highball. Although some people have fetishized the highball as whiskey and soda water, with a squeeze of citrus, and nothing else, any drink that combines one part whiskey with four or five parts sparkling soda in a tall glass over ice, with or without cola or other flavoring and sweetener, is a highball.
The public service part of this post is to tell you that in the American whiskey heartland of Kentucky and Tennessee, and quite probably some other parts of the South, Jack and Coke or Bourbon and Coke is decidedly not a highball.
I learned this in the region by attending private events that employ bartenders. In a public bar, even in the South, if you order Jack and Coke you get a highball, but at private parties where both the bartender and the guests know Southern traditions, it goes like this.
"Jack and Coke, please," or "Bourbon and Coke, please."
The bartender fills an on-the-rocks glass with ice and starts to pour in the whiskey, watching the guest for a signal. "There," the guest finally says, with the glass nearly full. The bartender then tops off the drink with Coke and adds a lemon or lime wedge. I have observed this scene countless times. The typical highball ratio is reversed. It's more like one part Coke and four or five parts whiskey, as it should be.