Saba
A new take on a bourbon soda from Chicago's Monteverde

My love of spirits began with soda.

Soda helped introduce my palate to the idea of booze while still imparting its own flavor to the drink. Seriously, add a ginger-based soda to anything and it’s instantly glorious.

Once you learn to love the booze, you can then look at soda as less of a gateway, and more as another great cocktail ingredient. And we do mean great: sodas offer you fizz, sweetness and pretty much any flavor profile you want in a single can or bottle. (It doesn’t hurt that soda tends to be cheap and readily available.)

So below, a primer on soda-friendly cocktails, just in time for warm weather … when you want something refreshing, easy to make and even easier to imbibe.

Paloma
The paloma is the a simple grapefruit soda and tequila cocktail (InsideHook)

The classics:

Moscow Mule: Vodka, lime juice, ginger beer

Cuba Libre: Rum, lime juice, Coke

The Batanga: Blanco tequila, lime juice, Coke, salt (as a rim or throw a bit in the glass)

Paloma: Reposado tequila, lime juice, grapefruit soda (preferably Squirt), pinch of kosher salt

Presbyterian: Scotch, ginger ale, club soda

Dark ‘n Stormy: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer

Jack and Coke: Jack Daniel’s and Coke (hint: use one of JD’s higher-proof expressions to cut down the sweetness a bit)

Jack and Ginger: Jack Daniel’s and ginger ale

There are others that are less known. “One of my go-to drinks I’ve been proselytizing for years is Averna and Diet Cherry Coke,” says Thomas Thompson of the NYC cocktail bar The Black Emporer. “The sage and cola of the Averna take the amorphous artificial cherry flavor and create a really well rounded, rich drink. People never believe me until they try.”

And apparently Wild Turkey and Mountain Dew was (and is) a thing.

The new takes

We asked a few bar professionals to send us recipes that include (and need) soda. Here’s a few favorites:

Queens Cruiser
By Matthew Kourie of the New York Cocktail Expo

1 1/2 oz. Old Tom gin
1/2 oz Copper & Kings brandy
1/2 oz mandarin liqueur
1/4 oz. pistachio syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Aquafaba
Cream soda top

Add all ingredients in a shaker tin except cream soda. Reverse dry shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with cream soda, garnish with an orange twist around the straw. Says Kourie: “The flavorful and refreshing cocktail has the relatable nostalgia of a subtlety complex creamsicle, while being crafted as a proper drink.”

Montecarlo

The Montecarlo
By Shirley Brooks of Pop’s Bar and Bottom of the Barrel (San Francisco)

1.5 oz bourbon (I use Old Crow/our well)
.5 oz Montenegro
2 oz Mr. Pibb

Build in glass. Top with ice. Garnish with orange twist or cherry.

Sunny Deposition

Sunny Deposition
By Cari Hah for Bar Henry (Los Angeles)

1.5 oz Ketel One Botanical Peach & Orange Blossom Vodka
0.25 oz Giffard Peche de Vigne
0.5 oz Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur
2 oz Q Club Soda
Sparkling Rosé

Says Bar Henry Bar Manager Ash Miyasaki, “Our pleasantly pink spritz combines the essences of juicy peach, fragrant orange blossoms, and complex gin botanicals perfectly in this effervescent cocktail. Subtle sweetness is balanced & brightened by semi-dry sparkling rosé and highly carbonated Q Club Soda, so your cocktail is as bubbly and delicious on your last sip as your first.”

Dutch Connection
By Keifer Gilbert of Bitter & Twisted (Phoenix)

1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Lillet Rose
3 dashes Peychauds Bitters
Top w/ Q Indian Tonic Water (note: a highly carbonated tonic water)
Grapefruit Twist

Says Gilbert: “This recipe stems from my favorite spring/summertime drink, which for the longest time was Lillet Rose and tonic. The following recipe combines that with a little bit of a backbone and a bump in proof from the Bols Genever, topped with Q’s Indian Tonic Water to add the extra boost of bitter from the quinine and a little bit of sweetness. The tight bubbles provided by the mixer really make the combination of ingredients shine, leaving us with a perfect spring and summer cocktail that is easy to make at home. Expressing a grapefruit peel over the top of the glass will give it the bright aromatics that I’m looking for in highball cocktails.”

Escarlatina
By Mike Pando from Deep Ellum (Boston)

1.5 oz Mezcal
3/4 oz St. Germaine
1/2 oz lime
1/2 oz grapefruit
Muddled Strawberry
Pinch of salt
Top with Q soda
Strawberry flower garnish

Build in a highball glass and roll it to finish. For garnish, quarter a strawberry from the bottom but don’t cut all the way through. Toss the leaf part in the center and pop a strawberry tip on top if you’d like. Says Pando: “Escarlatina is a tasty and dynamic cocktail to be enjoyed any time. The bold flavor of the mezcal combined with the sweetness of the strawberry and St. Germain make for a truly refreshing treat. Adding the Q Soda and the pinch of salt really seal the deal and put it over as a knockout all around!”

Saba Bourbon Soda
From Sarah Grueneberg at Monteverde (Chicago)

3/4 oz bourbon
3/4 oz Acetaia San Giacomo Saba Balsamic Vinegar
Orange/Orange peel
Club soda

Pour the bourbon and saba into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Put contents of glass into a shaker. Shake and pour back into the rocks glass. Add additional crushed ice as needed and top with club soda.  Finish drink with an orange peel. Note: While this has club soda, it mimics a Coke-ish flavor.

Trinity Spice

Trinity Spice
From Meaghan Dorman at Dear Irving on Hudson (NYC)

1.5 oz Appleton Reserve Rum
.75 oz Ancho Reyes
3.5 oz Fever Tree Smoky Ginger Ale

Build in a rocks glass over big rock of ice. Stir to combine. Grate dark chocolate over the top. Says Dorman: “Inspired by the UK’s most famous export, the Spice Girls, this drink takes three ingredients that contain their own spice to create something special. Reminiscent of mole, the combination of funky Jamaican rum with ancho chile spice and fresh ginger notes work well with the unique smoky aspect of the Smoky Ginger Ale.”

Airlane
From Paul McGee of Lost Lake (Chicago)

1 oz Ketel One
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Lemon Juice
4 oz Fever-Tree Spiced Ginger

Build in a Collins glass over cubed ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Highballer

Highballer
From Chris Patino & Erick Castro of Raised by Wolves (San Diego)

1.5 oz Cognac
Jarrito’s Tamarindo Soda, to top

Build in a highball glass. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Lavender Daisy
Created by Mixologist Marshall Altier

1 1/2 oz Don Julio Blanco tequila
1/3 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit soda
2 dashes Lavender Tincture
Pinch of salt
Fresh lavender sprigs for garnish

Combine Tequila Don Julio Blanco, fresh lime juice, grapefruit soda, salt and lavender tincture in a Collins glass with ice. Stir with bar spoon. Garnish with two fresh lavender sprigs.

Hella

Is there any way to make this even easier?
Hella Cocktail Co. just started selling Bitters & Soda, a sparkling mixer that you can drink on your own or add to your favorite spirit. Just launched in the UK, Coca-Cola Signature Mixers offer flavor profiles like spicy, smoky and herbal on top of their usual cola flavor (pair with dark spirits only, please). And brands like Cutwater Spirits and ‘Merican Mule offer up ready-to-drink cocktails that combine soda and booze in cans.