One Plus One Equals Cocktail
In praise of lazy bartending.
So, apparently, we have been living through the spring of the so-called “dirty soda,” which is apparently a non-alcoholic Utah favorite that’s been all over TikTok—a mix of diet cola over ice with coconut syrup, lime juice, and a little half-and-half. Perhaps it is a favorite of the infamous Mormon swinger TikTok moms (whose drama I have also been following)? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that today I received a press release from Malibu, the coconut rum, which tells me Malibu is “Leaning on the ‘dirty soda’ trend” and has developed “the all-new Malibu Dirty Cola…a riff on the timeless—yet simple—Malibu Cola.” The recipe, if you’re interested: 1 part Malibu; 2 parts cola; “splash of coconut creamer”; lime wedge.
Readers, I am exhausted. I’m sure many of you feel the same. We live in an era of endless, unrelenting stimuli, choices, and possibilities. It is overwhelming. It’s perfectly understandable that some respond to the maelstrom of modern life by dumping coconut syrup or coconut rum into a Coke, adding ice, a little cream, a lime, and saying, “I’m good.”
I get it. Fussiness in any form feels antithetical to this moment. I’m actually not looking for an education on the trivia and minutiae of booze every time I pop open a bottle. Sometimes, I just need a drink. Which is why in honor of the dirty soda I am focusing today on extremely straightforward and uncomplicated drinks. I want to talk about lazy bartending.
One of my favorite categories of “cocktail” is what we might call the One Plus One Equals Cocktail. These would be drinks that require the mixological technique of opening a bottle of spirit and then a bottle of something fizzy (soda or whatnot) and then pouring both into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. You can also call this a highball. Call it whatever. I do not care what you call it.
A gin and tonic would be a “One Plus One” cocktail. The classic Paloma, with tequila and grapefruit soda, would also be a One Plus One. The Calimocho (or Kalimotxo), a Spanish concoction of red wine plus Coca-Cola, is an excellent use of the previous night’s leftover wine (preferably something oaky). One of my favorites is the Buck, which calls for ginger ale or ginger beer and a spirit (I happen to like Dutch genever in mine; you can use what you have). I’m also a big fan of using Averna amaro in long drinks with ginger beer or grapefruit soda. Finally, there is the lazy man’s best friend, the rum and Coke — a drink my friend Derek Brown calls “the drink of the shiftless, idle, and indolent.”
What I am describing is variations of a simple long drink over ice that one can quickly and easily make and enjoy on a hot day. Usually, it’s 2 ounces of spirit and 3 to 4 ounces of soda poured over ice. Because we are using sweet soda with these drinks, there’s not even a need for the extra step of sugar or simple syrup (which you would need for, say, a Collins or a Rickey). Yes, in most cases, One Plus One drinks are better if you take a knife and cut up a lime or lemon and squeeze in the juice. But you’ll still be fine if you’re too lazy even for that.
Semantic debates occasionally arise over this type of beverage. Some insist that a soda plus spirit is technically considered a “mixed drink” rather than a cocktail. My advice is to avoid people who split such hairs. But if you cannot, please know that most One Plus One cocktails can also involve a squeeze of citrus, a garnish, a dash of bitters, or a salted rim. This means most contain three ingredients—four if you count the ice. Anyway, for anyone who cares, they are indeed cocktails.
Below, I have included 10 of my favorite easy spirit-plus-soda drinks. I have included some basic measurements, but these are not formal recipes. Most of us know how to portion spirit, soda, and citrus to our own liking. Remember to include plenty of ice. In all cases, do a quick stir with a spoon or your finger.
Serve them as refreshments throughout the heat of the summer. They all prove that even if you are a lazy bartender, you can still be a gracious host.
With Ginger Beer (or ginger ale, if that’s what you have)
1. The Buck
2 ounces spirit (gin, genever, apple brandy, whatever), squeeze of lemon, 3–4 ounces ginger beer.
2 ounces Averna amaro, squeeze of lemon, 3–4 ounces ginger beer.
3. The Cloudy Sky
2 ounces sloe gin, squeeze of lime, 2–3 ounces ginger beer.
With Grapefruit Soda (Izze or Fresca works)
4. Easy Paloma
2 ounces tequila, squeeze of lime, 3–4 ounces grapefruit soda. Salt rim if desired.
2 ounces Averna amaro, squeeze of lime, 3–4 ounces grapefruit soda. Salt rim if desired.
6. Easy Salty Dog
2 ounces gin, squeeze of lime, 3–4 ounces grapefruit soda. Salt rim if desired.
With Coca-Cola (or I guess Pepsi, if that’s all you’ve got)
7. Slightly Fussy Cuba Libre
2 ounces rum, ½ ounce gin, squeeze of lime, 3 ounces Coca-Cola.
3–4 ounces the previous night’s red wine (preferably something oaky), 3–4 ounces Coca-Cola, dash of Angostura bitters.
With Chinotto (*that brown, bitter-orange-flavored Italian soda. Look for San Pellegrino brand)
9. Della Mela
2 ounces apple brandy (such as Calvados), 3 to 4 ounces chinotto, orange slice.
With Black Cherry Soda
As a child growing up in the Philadelphia area, we always drank Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak soda. It’s this old Philly flavor I’m channeling when I mix it with Kentucky bourbon.
10. The Pennsyltucky
2 ounces bourbon, 3 to 4 ounces black cherry soda, 2 dashes Angostura bitters.