Cocktails | Whiskey

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Written By cocktailflavors.com

A Timeless Classic: The Highball Cocktail

Imagine a cocktail so simple yet so profound in its elegance that it has stood the test of time. The Highball, with its crisp, effervescent charm, is exactly that—a classic that has never lost its allure. Whether it’s a balmy summer afternoon or a cool evening, this cocktail’s refreshing nature makes it a versatile choice for any occasion.

At its core, the Highball is a celebration of whiskey’s robust flavor, softened by the lightness of soda water. But what is it about this cocktail that makes it a favorite across generations? Could it be the perfect balance of strength and simplicity? Let’s dive into the world of this beloved drink and uncover its secrets.

Are you ready to elevate your home bartending skills with a cocktail that promises sophistication without the complexity? The Highball is your answer, and we’re here to guide you through crafting the perfect one.

Key Facts:

  • Alcohol Volume: Approx. 14% ABV (28 proof)
  • Calories: Approximately 150
  • Preferred Glass Type: Highball Glass
  • Typical Garnish: Lemon Peel or Lemon Slice (optional)

Classic Highball Cocktail

Tasting Notes: A Symphony of Simplicity

The Highball cocktail is a masterclass in balance and restraint. The whiskey’s warmth is the star, with its complex notes ranging from vanilla to smoke, depending on your choice of spirit. The soda water adds a refreshing fizz, lifting the whiskey and allowing it to dance across the palate.

This cocktail is not just for whiskey connoisseurs. Its approachable nature makes it a hit with a wide audience. The Highball is perfect for those who appreciate a spirit-forward drink without the weight of a neat pour. It’s a go-to for social gatherings, casual meet-ups, or even as a dinner companion.

Whether you’re toasting to a special occasion or unwinding after a long day, the Highball fits the bill. Its simplicity is its strength, making it a timeless choice that transcends trends and seasons.

The Storied Past of the Highball

The origins of the Highball are as effervescent as the drink itself. It’s believed to have surfaced in the late 19th century, a time when carbonated beverages began to gain popularity. The term “highball” seems to have come from the old railway signals, where a ball positioned high signaled a clear track ahead—much like the clear, straightforward nature of the drink.

Initially, the Highball was a morning beverage, a “hair of the dog” remedy. However, its refreshing taste quickly made it a staple at social events. It was the perfect answer for those seeking a lighter drink that still offered the complexity of whiskey.

Through the years, the Highball has seen many variations, but the classic whiskey and soda combination remains the gold standard. It’s a testament to the idea that the best things in life are often the simplest.

Ingredients: Crafting the Classic

  • Whiskey (2 oz): The soul of the cocktail, providing rich and varied flavors.
  • Soda Water (4 to 6 oz): Brings effervescence and lightness, complementing the whiskey.
  • Ice Cubes: Keeps the drink chilled and dilutes it slightly for smoothness.
  • Lemon Peel or Lemon Slice (optional): Adds a citrusy aroma and a touch of elegance.

Did you know? The Highball is often associated with the Japanese bartending tradition, where it has been elevated to an art form with precise techniques and presentation.

Preparing a Highball Cocktail

The Basic Method: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Chill the Glass: Start by filling your highball glass with ice cubes to chill.
  2. Pour the Whiskey: Measure and pour 2 oz of your preferred whiskey over the ice.
  3. Add Soda Water: Gently top the glass with soda water, adjusting the amount to taste.
  4. Stir Gently: Use a bar spoon to stir the mixture, integrating the whiskey and soda water.
  5. Garnish if Desired: Express a lemon peel over the drink or add a lemon slice for an aromatic touch.
  6. Serve Immediately: Enjoy your Highball fresh and cold.

Serving Suggestion: The Perfect Presentation

The Highball, in its essence, calls for a tall, slender glass—aptly named the highball glass. This glassware not only showcases the drink’s clarity but also maintains its carbonation and temperature. A highball glass is the ideal vessel for this cocktail, allowing the aromas to concentrate and providing the perfect sip.

Garnishing with a lemon peel or slice is not mandatory, but it adds a citrusy zest that complements the whiskey’s complexity. It’s a simple touch that can elevate the sensory experience of the drink.

Elevating the Cocktail: Expert Tips

  • Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality whiskey and fresh, carbonated soda water for the best taste.
  • Ice Matters: Opt for large, clear ice cubes that melt slowly and don’t dilute the drink too quickly.
  • Personal Touch: Experiment with different whiskey types to find your perfect Highball profile.

Highball Cocktail Served

Substitutions and Alternatives: Tailoring to Taste

If whiskey isn’t your spirit of choice, fear not. The beauty of the Highball lies in its versatility. Try substituting whiskey with gin for a lighter, botanical twist, or with rum for a sweeter, tropical vibe. The key is to maintain the spirit-to-soda ratio for that signature Highball experience.

Similar cocktails that share the Highball’s DNA include the Gin and Tonic, the Tom Collins, and the Cuba Libre. Each offers a unique take on the spirit-plus-mixer formula, catering to a range of palates and preferences.

Add a Twist: Creative Variations

For a seasonal spin, infuse your Highball with fresh herbs like mint or basil. Or, add a splash of fruit juice for a hint of sweetness and color. Another idea is to incorporate flavored syrups, like ginger or elderflower, for an extra layer of complexity.

Remember, the Highball is a canvas for your creativity. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own.

Preferred Liquors: Whiskey Recommendations

While the Classic Highball is forgiving, the choice of whiskey can significantly influence its character. A smooth, light Irish whiskey or a delicate Japanese whisky can make for a more approachable drink, while a bold Scotch or rye whiskey will add depth and spice.

Ultimately, the best whiskey for your Highball is the one you enjoy the most. Whether it’s a familiar favorite or a new discovery, let your palate guide you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make a Highball with non-alcoholic whiskey?

Yes, non-alcoholic spirits are a great alternative for a sober Highball experience.

How can I ensure my Highball doesn’t become watered down?

Use large ice cubes and serve immediately after mixing to maintain the cocktail’s integrity.

Is it okay to mix different types of whiskey in a Highball?

While not traditional, blending whiskeys can create unique flavors. Experiment to find a blend that works for you.

What’s the best soda water to use for a Highball?

Choose a high-quality, highly carbonated soda water for the best fizz and flavor.

Can I prepare a Highball in advance?

It’s best enjoyed fresh, but you can pre-chill the whiskey and glass to streamline preparation.

Embrace the simplicity of the Highball, and let this classic cocktail become a staple in your repertoire. With its timeless appeal and endless versatility, it’s a drink that’s sure to impress, whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or a cocktail enthusiast. Cheers to the Highball—effortless, elegant, and always in style.


Classic Highball

A refreshing and straightforward cocktail, the Classic Highball is a testament to simplicity, combining whiskey with carbonated water for a crisp, effervescent drink that's perfect for sipping on a warm day or as a relaxing evening beverage.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine International
Servings 1 drink
Calories 150 kcal


  • Highball glass
  • Bar spoon


  • 2 oz Whiskey
  • 4 to 6 oz Soda Water to top
  • Ice Cubes
  • Lemon Peel or Lemon Slice for garnish, optional


  • Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.
  • Pour the whiskey over the ice.
  • Top with soda water to your preference.
  • Gently stir to combine the whiskey and soda water.
  • Garnish with a lemon peel or lemon slice if desired.
  • Serve immediately.


The choice of whiskey can vary according to personal preference, from a light Irish whiskey to a more robust Scotch. The key to a perfect Highball is the quality of the soda water and the ratio of whiskey to soda, which should be adjusted to the drinker's taste.
Keyword Carbonated, Classic Cocktail, Easy-to-Make, Highball, Quick, Refreshing, Simple, Soda Water, Spirit Forward, Whiskey

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