Soda Water is Your Friend

Sometimes it's simply as easy as a bottle of Pellegrino. One of the most commonly requested tasks at K&L is to have us help put together a home bar. I always love doing this with beginners because I'll never choose things like Creme de Violette or Falernum, which is what they think I'm going to end up tossing in the basket. I'll take a bottle of whisky, Bourbon, gin, rum, vermouth, and maybe a liqueur or two, then a giant case of soda water.

"What about all those fancy cocktails I'm reading about in the newspaper? What about Creme de Violette, and chocolate mole bitters, and rose petal water? How do I make drinks with those?"

Blue Moons and fancy tiki drinks are fine once you've learned the basics. The truth is, however, that some of the best cocktails in the world are simply the result of a base spirit with sparkling water. No joke. They may not require the skill level that a Clover Club needs (with egg whites and fresh citrus and things like raspberry gum syrup), but they do hit the spot in a way that a martini-up never could.

I drank a lot of cocktails with soda water this past week. Here's a list of the booze I added it to:

Bank Note Blended Whisky

Hibiki 12 Japanese Blended Whisky

Great King Street Blended Whisky


Biancosarti (the white Campari - available in Italy only - make the effort to get some!)




Cocchi Americano

Byrrh Apperitif

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Dolin Blanc Vermouth

And that's just over the last six days! Soda water has a particular affinity for blended whisky, so that's usually my base spirit of choice, but the marriage of Pellegrino with a bitter liqueur is simply a thing of beauty. Don't forget the pastis liqueurs either, like Pernod and Ricard. Yum!

The other great thing about soda cocktails is the fun garnish. If you're in a hurry to get your drink on then just dump some ice in a glass, pour two fingers, top it off with sparking water and get back to your Mad Men episode. However, if you've got guests and some extra time, you can add orange peels, lemon peels, lime peels, grapefruit peels, cherries, raspberries, herbs, or whatever else you've got on hand. You can do a highball glass, a lowball glass, or whatever suits your fancy. There are tons of options.

These are all real cocktails, despite what the fancy pre-Prohibition scene has you thinking. You may not be interested in martini glasses or white spirits whatsoever, but you can still enjoy the simple pleasure that is whisky with soda. Especially when it's hot like it is here in the Bay Area today.

Just a few things to think about. Making cocktails isn't really all that difficult or time consuming when you concentrate on the simple basics. Plus, you've probably got at least a few bottles laying around that could use some love and attention. This is a great way to finish off that Glenmorangie 10 year that's been sitting there half full since you graduated to the Ealanta.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll