Redefining the Classic Whiskey and Coke

Nikos Panidis/EyeEm/Getty Images
Nikos Panidis/EyeEm/Getty Images

The simple whiskey and Coke is one of the easier cocktails to make compared to some of the fancy concoctions that involve muddling fruits or using mini blowtorches, but as one bartender put it, “I just don’t get why people bother ordering them.”

While the normal procedure might be to just walk up to the bar and ask for a Jack Daniels and Coke (referred to as a Jack and Coke the world over) the drink was originally called a “Coca-Cola highball” in a 1907 United States Bureau of Chemistry report on the soft drink’s growing popularity. Today it’s one of the most ordered drinks you’ll hear requested when you walk into any neighborhood bar, and one you can usually drink without tasting any whiskey at all.

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And that’s sort of the problem: Unlike its cousin cocktail made with rum, the Cuba Libre, the sugary sweet cola really takes over the entire show, rendering the drink a little boring unless you find a whiskey with some kick — possibly a nice rye. But since you’re probably not going to go top shelf ordering a drink that will inevitably be more soda than anything no matter what you use, maybe consider going in a whole different direction.

“We use Mellow Corn whiskey,” Mike Shain, general manager at Danny Meyer’s new New York bar Porchlight, says. “It’s one of those drinks people call for frequently, and we wanted to make it unique to Porchlight.”

Accomplishing what they set out to do, the Whiskey & Cola is one of the standouts on their impressive cocktail menu. Blending Fernet Vallet bitters and homemade cola, the drink is served up in a handsome old timey Coke bottle, and packs a punch that is tasty, refreshing, and only takes popping off a cap to serve. But the secret is the whiskey, the way it should really be, with Mellow Corn acting as an unsuspecting star.

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“It’s funky stuff,” Shain says of the corn whiskey that’s aged for four years and comes out at an impressive 100 proof, something that will raise every hair on your body if you’re brave enough to sip it neat (something we really don’t suggest you try). A pretty unknown whiskey outside of its homeland of Kentucky since it made its debut in 1945, Mellow Corn has become a hit with bartenders across the country, because, simply put, it’s a whiskey that won’t be bested. As Sarah Zhang at Gizmodo put it, “It smelled like corn on the cob. I sipped it. It tasted like clear poison.”

But damn if it doesn’t make a fine whiskey and cola. And at under $20 a bottle, a Mellow Corn and cola could easily become your go to drink when you get home and just want to make something easy, unexpectedly elevating the cocktail you’ve probably never put that much thought into ordering.

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