It seems family friendly, but Coca-Cola has a long history of touting its soda mixed with alcohol.
As Difford’s Guide points out, the company helped invent the Cuba Libre as far back as 1898. Plus, the brand has historically not been averse to advertising how well its cola goes with, well, almost every type of liquor — there were, at one point, officially sanctioned advertisements and fridge magnets that suggested consumers “Try Coke with rum, gin, whisky, brandy, vodka.” More recently, the drinks brand collaborated with some top-notch bartenders to develop a line of mixers.
So when Coke announced Coca-Cola With Coffee was launching in the U.S. this year, my first thought wasn’t to drink these on their own. My first thought was, “How does this pair with booze?” (I had previously tried different versions of Coke with Coffee in other countries — the soda’s inherent vanilla, spices and citrus notes pair quite well with coffee, although I do find the end product to be a bit “heavier” and definitely sweet. One small can of these is enough.)
I’ve written about my love of alcohol paired with soda before — Jack and Coke was my gateway into whisky, a batanga my intro to tequila, etc. This combo makes for easy drinks and they’re really nice in the summer. And I also love coffee-based tipples. So maybe this combo would deliver the best of all worlds?
To test this out, I bought all five of the new cola/java releases, which promised to “sip like a Coke and finish like a coffee.” I then removed the two zero sugar releases — I like Coke Zero, but I don’t use it in cocktails — and concentrated on making simple, well-known libations using the Dark Blend, Vanilla and Caramel Coke With Coffee releases.
My results, below:
A mix of Coke, lime juice, tequila and salt. A personal favorite, I decided to tempt fate and use a reposado tequila (to bring out some vanilla and oak) along with the most neutral of the new flavors, the Dark Blend.
Oddly, I got a lot of caramel on the nose, even though I didn’t use the Caramel Coke can here. The whole experience came off as a very sweet, citrus-y coffee. The lime and the Coca-Cola With Coffee is not a great mix, however, and leads to an odd mouthfeel. Two out of five.
Jack and Coke
I find the traditional J&C too sweet, so I opted for a Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (47% ABV) and the vanilla Coke/coffee. That hint of banana I always get with Jack was amped up here, and the whole thing tasted like a creamsicle — in a good way! I wouldn’t have more than one of these, but it was definitely a step up from the traditional Jack and Coke mix. Three out of five.
Fernet and Coke
I had a weird craving for this bittersweet amaro over the last few weeks, and Fernet even started invading my traditional Old Fashioned. Apparently popular in Argentina, I’d never tried a Fernet with Coke. To be safe, I used the Dark Blend here and … well, it wasn’t safe. Very herbal and the sweetness was completely lost. Unpleasant. One out of five.
Cold Brew Old Fashioned
A riff on this recipe, but subbing Coca-Cola With Coffee Caramel for Mr. Black and using Jameson Cold Brew as the Irish whiskey. Since there’s no simple syrup, I figured the sweetest of the new Coke would provide the sugary tang. It did the job somewhat; overall, this was nice! It was essentially an easy-sipping whiskey with hints of orange and coffee, and actually not as sweet as my usual Old Fashioned (oddly, no caramel notes were present in the final cocktail). Three and a half out of five.
I was worried about mixing lime and Coca-Cola With Coffee again, and I was correct. Still a strange, oily mouthfeel. That said, I used the Coke Coffee Vanilla and that flavor paired nicely with the rum. Next time, I’d forego the citrus and just create a vanilla-forward rum and Coke. Three out of five.
I couldn’t stomach the idea of cream with Coke for a White Russian, so I went with a heavy vodka to Coca-Cola Coffee With Vanilla ratio to try a Black Russian. It started 2:1 in favor of vodka, then I pared it down to 1:1. Funny enough, I usually despise Coke and vodka as a combo, but here the coffee, cola and Absolut came together into something that was a little sweet, a little bitter and definitely punchy and booze-forward, more like a stiff martini with coffee accents (not like a sweet espresso martini). Three out of five.
Don’t use lime or lemon with any Coca-Cola With Coffee release (although orange bitters worked fine). If you’re short on time or mixers, keep it simple with a combo of one of these Coke cans and either rum or whiskey over ice to serve up a quick, boozy (and buzzy) treat.
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.