Highballing It

Whisky doesn’t have an illustrious cocktail history, the list of creations using it as a base spirit is considerably shorter than that of gin. But the whisky highball, or whisky and soda, was one of the most common mixed drinks serves of the 20th century and is a drink as strong on a menu as many other classic. And the good news is, the highball is a trend in the best bars across the world


The gin and tonic helped drive customers back to this classic and as gin drinkers move on to explore the complexities of whisky, it seems Scotch, Irish, Japanese and American whiskey can benefit from a bit of care and attention to a highball menu. Highballs appeared on menus as early as the early 19th century, so if an appreciation of history is your thing, this fits that bill too


It’s a simple drink in terms of recipe spec, and easy to knock out with speed on a busy night, but this is a drink that still requires respect and with a very small amount of bespoke invention, like an inhouse syrup infusion or garnish, you can present plenty of creative ownership. The long, lightly carbonated profile makes it refreshing and drink-able, but don’t be sloppy, it needs to look clean, sleek, refined and properly chilled to justify the price tag



One of the earliest mentions of this drink
appears in the 1900 Bartender’s Manual by
Harry Johnson and suggests two or three lumps
of clear ice, a ‘wine glass’ measure of Scotch
(roughly 60ml) and ice cold soda. Also check
out Patrick Duffy in the history books, who is
widely attributed with the invention of the name


The highball emerged with from the popular
cocktails of the late 18th century, think Old
Fashioned, Martinez, Sazerac and Pink Gin.
The buck grew from it and it subsequently
inspired the Dark ‘n’ Stormy so this will help to
expand a highball menu


The highball also gave us the mule family, the
most famous being the Moscow Mule, a blend
of vodka and ginger beer. Other incarnations
include tequila and brandy. One of the simplest
and most successful serves we’ve encountered
is the Jameson Irish Whiskey Ginger and lime.
Simple but incredibly drinkable.
50ml of Jameson Irish Whiskey
Ginger Ale
Large wedge of lime
Fill a highball glass with ice.
Add Jameson. Top up the glass with ginger ale
Take a large wedge of lime, give it a squeeze and
drop it into the glass, roughly 1 part Jameson to
3 parts ginger ale


We err on the side of a small and simple
glass, standard size is around 350ml but
experiment. Ratios depend on customer taste,
but in a whisky soda, two parts whisky to
three parts soda works for us. If you use a straw,
make sure it isn’t plastic and the garnish will help
justify its inclusion on the cocktail menu. Jorge
Meyer is the bar legend who created the gin basil
smash. He’s behind Le Lion and Boilerman bars,
in Hamburg, that focus on the long drink serve.
They serve up long drinks in smaller glasses and
they look incredible


The Japanese have made an art into theatre,
their whisky highball, or Mizuwari, is slowly built
with a little whisky poured over ice, stirred,
topped with a little of the chilled water, stirred,
and so on until complete. That said, if you’re
using soda water, the drink doesn’t need much
stirring, a metal spoon and interaction of
bubbles with ice can diminish the carbonation


Quality ice is essential for all your cocktails, but
particularly in a drink like this. A single column
of large cubes or even large single piece of ice
running through the spine of the drink makes it
feel proper. Too much wet ice is a crime, floating
ice looks a bit rubbish. The ice will make the
drink look great but also avoid over dilution.
And if you have fridge space, go the extra yard
and frost the glasses for visual impact and
optimum temperature


Get in touch – we’d love to have a chat about how we can help you do more with your range. Slide into our DMs, email us at Distilled@carlsbergmarstons.co.uk or give us a call on 0845 072 7092


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