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Issue 47 - Is it the real thing?

Whisky Magazine Issue 47
April 2005


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Is it the real thing?

Whisky and cola? Ian Wisniewski takes us in to unchartered waters

It's like a rite of passage. We grow up drinking cola, accompanied by ice and lemon, but after reaching legal drinking age we can enjoy it with some other, more adult accompaniments.

As a universal mixer, cola partners various spirits and whiskies. Tequila and cola, for example, is the most popular way to drink the national spirit in Mexico, where it's known as caballa negro (‘black horse'). Meanwhile, rum and cola is an international favourite, and the origins of this combination (technically a Cuba Libre) could be the first instance of a cola being fortified.

The location was Cuba, the date 1898, and the cause freedom. In a bid to gain independence from Spain, Cubans were reinforced by American troops. To celebrate their victory, a Cuban officer poured his American counterpart some Bacardi rum (the distillery being established in Santiago in 1862).

In order to reciprocate, the American officer opened a bottle of Coca-Cola, then a relatively new soft drink. Combining these two specialities provided a victory toast, with the occasion providing a name that said it all: Cuba Libre.

Coca-Cola originated in 1886, when an Atlanta pharmacist, John Stith Pemberton, created a caramel coloured syrup. Taking this down to Jacobs' Pharmacy, the city's largest drugstore, it became one of the options in the soda fountain, priced at five cents a glass. It was the beginning of an international phenomenon.

With various brands of cola to choose from, the appeal of whisky and cola is su...

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