How to Perfect the Humble Highball

How to Perfect the Humble Highball


4 minute read

There are few drinks more versatile or more simple than a classic Highball. This category of cocktails includes dozens of favorites like the Screwdriver and the traditional G&T and is a go-to drink formula all around the world. Whether you’re a cocktail newbie or an experienced home mixologist, you can use the Highball’s simple ratio to always have a good no muss, no fuss cocktail recipe in your back pocket.

What’s in a Highball?

The Highball isn’t just one drink—it’s many. This family of cocktails includes any drink made with liquor and a large amount of a non-alcoholic mixer or two. It’s typically a ratio of about 2 ounces of liquor to 4-6 ounces of mixer, and beyond that the only limit is your creativity!

You can use your liquor of choice in a Highball. Whiskey is a favorite and is so synonymous with the drink that if you order a Highball (or Haibōru) in Japan, you’ll get a Whiskey Soda without any  questions asked. Vodka is another popular pick, and many familiar vodka cocktail recipes follow the highball formula.

The most common mixers for Highballs are something sparkling (like soda water, ginger ale, or tonic) or fruit juice (including orange, grapefruit, and cranberry). The simplest Highball is made with just liquor and one mixer (as in a Gin & Tonic), but you can add as many non-alcoholic mixers as you like. The Bloody Mary—complete with several good glugs of tomato juice and a dash of every sauce and seasoning you have on hand—is just as much of a Highball as its simpler cousins.

To give you a sense of the versatility of this drink, here are a few Highballs you might know:

  • Scotch and Soda
  • Jack and Coke
  • Screwdriver
  • Greyhound
  • Bloody Mary
  • Moscow Mule
  • Gin and Tonic
  • Gin Fizz
  • Rum and Coke
  • Dark and Stormy
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Paloma

You might also be familiar with the Highball glass: a tall glass tumbler holding 8 to 12 ounces. They’re named for the signature drinks they hold and are a good addition to your glassware cabinet if you enjoy a Highball. A traditional 16 ounce pint glass might be a little large for a Highball, meaning that your booze will be diluted if you fill your glass to the top with mixers.

Oh, and if you want a little bit of Highball history to impress your drinking buddies at your next happy hour, drop this fact: people believe the Highball got its name from old timey train travel, where it was a common dining car drink thanks to its tall, straight sides that made it hard to spill on a bumpy train. Every steam train had a meter by the engine where a ball would float to the top when the boiler pressure peaked at their top speed—a practice known as “highballing.” And thus, a name was born that would be known the world over, long after steam trains lost their popularity.

Our Highball Recipes

Ready to take that newfound Highball knowledge for a spin? Here are two recipes  to try—one easy peasy and one for when you’re feeling a little more ambitious.

Spiced Highball

2 oz Navel Gazer-infused whiskey
4-6 oz ginger ale (to taste)
Add whiskey to a highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger ale. Sip. Ahhh. Repeat.

Yari’s Mango Mojito

2 oz Out of Office-infused white rum⁣
1 oz fresh lime juice⁣⁣
1 tsp raw sugar⁣⁣
6-8 mint leaves
Soda water to top⁣⁣
Mint sprig for garnish
Lime wheel for garnish

Muddle mint leaves, lime juice, and sugar at the bottom of a shaker until sugar dissolves and mint is fragrant and broken up. Add ice and rum and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass over fresh ice, top with soda water, and garnish with fresh mint leaves and lime. Take a sip and instantly get transported to the tropics—you’re welcome.

Happy Highballin’!

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