The Whisky Highball is a simple cocktail, containing only two parts in its most common form.
There are many different variations including Rum & Coke, Cuba Libre, Seven & Seven and of course, Scotch and Soda. We’re focusing on the Whisky Highball, but there’s lots of info here on just the Highball cocktail.
Where did it begin?
Rumour has it that it was first introduced to American culture by E.J. Ratcliffe, who ordered a “Scotch and Soda” in a bar owned by Patrick Gavin Duffy.
Duffy went on to claim that it was he who brought the cocktail to the US, saying “it was I who first brought the Highball to America, in 1895” in his book, The Official Mixer’s Guide.
The first real appearance of the Highball in mixology guides was in the 1890s, when it began to be mentioned in cocktail making books such as The Mixicologist by Chris Lawlor in 1895 and Bartender’s Manual by Harry Johnson in 1900.
Again, different variations are included, such as the “Brand and Soda”, which uses Brandy instead of Scotch, and was very popular at the time.
From here it took off and news of just how good it was spread fast.
In England, it took a bit more time to become quite as popular. This was mainly down to Tommy Dewar, Whisky legend and partner of Dewar’s and Sons.
He made the Highball fashionable and introduced to many influential people at the time.
The Japanese Highball
The Japanese make good Whisky and they definitely know how to make a good Whisky Highball.
The cocktail became popular there when Westerners began ordering it at bars. It wasn’t long before you could buy it bottled at shops.
It was hugely popular in the 60s and 70s but fell out of favour over time. It wasn’t until the 2000s that it became popular again.
This is because the Japanese know how to do a Highball right.
Everything it thought out and of the best quality, from the soda right down to the very glass it is held in.
So what makes the Whisky Highball so good?
The attractive thing from the get go with the Highball, is that it is so easy to make, and yet tastes so good when done right.
It’s important to get your proportions correct, depending on what mixer you’re using.
You can vary the amount of mixer to Scotch ratio, as certain mixers will bring out different flavours in certain Scotches.
For instance, if you’re using Ginger Ale, it will bring out spicier, fruity notes. When working with plain Soda Water, this will allow the Scotch to express whatever flavour profile it already has.
Garnishes are also important, as these will effect flavour. You could use a sprig of mint for a more herbal or earthy tasting Scotch, or some citrus fruit when using Soda Water.
The real key to a good Highball is to chill the glass and have plenty of ice.
Our Recipe for the Perfect Highball
50ml Dewar’s White Label
100ml Ginger Ale
Lime to garnish
- Use a chilled, tall glass.
- Pour the Whisky into the glass
- Add ice
- Pour over the Ginger Ale
This is a wonderfully versatile cocktail with lots of flavours, but it is certainly not overwhelming. Have a go and see what combinations you can discover to make your Highball perfect.