Serious Eats: Drinks
Eyewitness Booze Investigation: Jack Daniel's Premixed Drinks
I like Jack and Coke more than I like Jack or Coke. The Coke is strong enough to mask a little bit of the extra-sweet charcoal funk that sets Jack apart from other mid-shelf American whiskies, and the Jack is alcohol-havin' enough to justify drinking soda this far along into my dotage. So when the folks pushing Jack Daniel's sent me some cool-looking 12-ounce aluminum bottles of premixed, ready to drink Jack Daniel's Whiskey and Cola, Whiskey and Diet Cola, and Whiskey and Ginger, I gave them a try.
Each drink is 5% alcohol, which is just right to compete with other premixes and beer alternatives, but only about half as strong as a Jack and Coke you'd make at home. I figured the best way to evaluate the JD RTDs was to compare them to homemade equivalents of equal strength. JD is 40% alcohol (80 proof), so my control drinks were 1.5 ounces of whiskey to 10.5 ounces of soda. Man, that's a lot of soda. I poured the premixes over ice—even though they're probably meant to be drunk on the go or from the cooler, it just seems more natural and civilized to ice them down like the real drinks they seek to replicate.
Jack Daniel's Whiskey and Cola:
Note that we're talking about "cola" here rather than Coke. From the first sip it was clear that the RTD used an inferior brand of sugar water. With such a soda-heavy formula, they'd have been better off ponying up to license real Coke and saving a few pennies by sneaking in a lesser whiskey. The substitute cola was markedly sweeter than my control drink, with a big blast of cheap caramel, and the last thing Jack Daniel's needs is extra sugar. The premix came out curiously carbonated but then faded to flat in seconds. This would be less of a problem straight from the bottle, though, since there'd be less surface area (and therefore volume) exposed to air, plus the tipping required to suck it down would likely keep the bubbles lively. Overall, the homemade drink was better, but I wouldn't refuse the RTD.
Jack Daniel's Whiskey and Diet Cola:
The difference in cola quality was less pronounced here, since even real Diet Coke always tastes a little simple and flat to me. Same weird all-then-nothing bubble explosion/implosion as above. The flavor gap between homemade and premixed was pretty narrow, but I still wouldn't recommend making this at home, because Jack and Diet is such a simple drink to make that there's no need to cut even the tiniest corner. But if you run out of beer on the Friday afternoon Bolt Bus (stupid Connecticut traffic!) and someone offers you one of these for $2 and the last bite of your Roy Rogers chicken sandwich, that's a fair trade.
Jack Daniel's Whiskey and Ginger:
The label doesn't specify what form of ginger we're dealing with here. Ale? Beer? Lonely castaway? For comparison's sake, I made a Jack and Schweppes Ginger Ale, and the RTD was vastly superior. Same old bubble troubles, but the soda tasted like real, live ginger-the-food rather than ginger-the-flavor. If you're a Jack and ginger drinker, I wholeheartedly recommend the premix.
Just do yourself a favor and top it off with an extra half-measure of whiskey.