Welcome to Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Lemmy!
Come in, take a load off, have a drink!
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. Some weeks, you want an elegant, exotic cocktail with a fancy garnish in a pretty coupe glass. And then you have weeks like this. Time to get basic, simple, and raw. Let’s throw back a Jack and Coke (aka, a Lemmy) at the local pinball parlor. Here’s the recipe:
3 oz Mexican Coca-Cola
2 oz Jack Daniels
Add Coke and Jack Daniels to a lowball glass over cracked ice. Squeeze the lime wedge into the glass. Drink liberally.
In earlier days, bartenders would name cocktails after famous Broadway plays, or movies, or foreign ambassadors. The idea fell out of practice … until Lemmy Kilmister came along. Lemmy broke all the rules. He had a voice that sounded like a pack of Marlboro Reds mixed with asphalt. His bass guitar was legendary. He was a god of heavy metal, punk, and rock and roll. He was no saint, but he did his best, and his best was fast, loud, and awe-inspiring.
Jack Daniels was made for Lemmy. In his prime, he literally drank a bottle of it every day. Jack Daniels was created in 1874, but it was only waiting for Lemmy to come along. There’s a reason that Jack Daniels is associated with rock and roll, and that reason is Lemmy Kilmister.
Every bar in America can make you a Jack and Coke, but a genuine grade-A Lemmy takes some attention. I went up to the Superelectric Pinball Parlor in Cleveland, Ohio, to take these pictures. It’s one of the family’s favorite hangouts. The lure of over a dozen top-notch pinball machines and all-you-can-play tickets is strong. I watched my wife and kid play, talked shop with the bartender, and came to some informed conclusions about how to perfect this simple, lowbrow, hardcore drink.
In a strange way, a Lemmy is just as demanding as an Adonis, or any other two-ingredient cocktail. Ratios matter. If you make a mistake, there’s nowhere to hide. Too much Jack Daniels throws the drink out of balance - it smells boozy, and the stone fruit notes of the Jack come forward in an unpleasant way. Too much cola, and it tastes weak and uncommitted. The perfect ratio of Jack to Coke brings out the woody notes of Jack Daniels while still playing in harmony with the mixer. And the lime wedge is a must. A little acid cuts through the sweetness of the soda and gives the Jack Daniels a little more space to shine. Lemon is too sharp and distinct. It’s the lime that makes it work. After a little experimenting, I decided that 3 parts cola to 2 parts Jack is the best way to go. Experiment if you’d like, but I’m pretty sure this is the right path.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Photo from the pinball parlor. If you like to gamble, I tell you, I'm your man. You win some, lose some - It's all the same to me. Matthew Hooper
Jack Daniels: Jack Daniels is bourbon. I’ve gotten into fistfights with other bartenders over that one, but I’m sticking to my guns. “Tennessee Whiskey” is made with the same ratios of corn to wheat and rye as a conventional bourbon. It’s aged for three to five years in oak barrels, just like bourbon. The only difference is that it’s passed through a charcoal filter before bottling. Adding a step doesn’t change the nature of the beast; vodka that’s been filtered seven times instead of six doesn’t stop being vodka. Jack Daniels is filtered bourbon, and bourbon is bourbon. End of story.
That being said, Jack Daniels tastes like no other bourbon out there. It has a stone-fruit finish that I don’t enjoy very much, and it isn’t as sweet as Bulleit or Four Roses. The filtering does change the character. If I was doing shots at a dive bar, I’d rather do Old Grand-Dad or Wild Turkey than Jack.
When you add Jack to Coke, however, you get an entirely different flavor profile. Woody, tannic notes that just aren’t there in Jack neat leap out from the cocktail. The drink becomes more than the sum of its parts in a way no conventional bourbon can match.
If you want to branch out, please feel free. I’d avoid Jack Apple or Jack Fire. I have no illusions about the pedigree of Coca Cola, but let’s keep the artificial flavors to a minimum. Jack Daniels distillery is producing some high-end versions of its core product, such as “Gentleman Jack.” There’s even some single-barrel small batch products out there. How all those subtle qualities survive being passed through a yards-long charcoal filter is beyond me, but who knows? The bourbon market is absurdly pricey right now. If Jack Daniels wants to sell a premium product and cash in, I’m not going to stand in the way. Just keep that rich stuff out of my Lemmy.
Coca Cola: I’m a firm believer in using Mexican Coca-Cola as a mixer of choice. For various legal reasons, Mexican cola uses cane sugar instead of corn syrup as its sweetener. “Real” sugar cooperates with cocktails very nicely, and we have enough corn syrup in the American diet. That being said, there are other options to try. Fevertree makes a barely sweet “Distiller’s Cola” that’s meant as a mixer, and odds are good you can find a locally made soda worth trying. None of these quite hit the spot like a true Lemmy somehow, but they’re very good in their own right. Experimentation never hurt.
Lime wedge: No compromise permitted here. Plastic green bottles make plastic juice. If you don’t have a real lime, skip it. Lemmy wouldn’t care much … but I do. Trust me. Real lime juice makes this drinkgood
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