Highball: High Priest of Tall Drinks

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There’s no doubt that whiskey is one of the coolest drinks ever created. As soon as you pour some of that brown liquid in an old-fashioned glass, you get the feeling that you’re a character from a classic novel who contemplates life and all its complications next to a fireplace while the rain is pouring outside. However, sometimes it is necessary to mix things up a bit and reinvent your favorite drink. This is where the Highball comes in. In case you’ve never heard of this cocktail or haven’t had a chance to try it yet, we’ll tell you what it is and how to make it.

Origin of the Highball Drink

Now, the origins of this famous Manhattan cocktail aren’t exactly clear. There have been a couple of theories but most Americans attribute the invention to the famous Manhattan bartender called Patrick Gavin Duffy. Considering how he had three names, it’s obvious that he was no ordinary bartender. It is said that he was the first to come up with the idea of mixing whiskey, ice, and soda water, creating the first-ever Highball. Although it is considered an original concept, there is a possibility that he was influenced by the English who often drank soda and brandy mix. Duffy created this drink in the late 19th century, but there were also other similar inventions at the time. The most famous one is the case of a Splificator, created in 1895 that resembled Highball quite a lot. We might never know the real truth behind the Highball drink, but that won’t stop us from enjoying it to the max.

Highball Recipe

As we’ve mentioned before, Highball is a quite simple cocktail that anyone can make, but the trick is in the details. Let’s begin with the basics. There are three main components to basic Highball drinks: spirits, ice, and some soda water. At the start, people used whiskey because of its popularity and flavor but, in time, they started mixing various spirits to accommodate their personal tastes. Some people even replaced the soda water with ginger ale early on, but that’s really a matter of individual preferences. So, how do you make a classic Highball? The first thing you’ll need is a narrow-mouthed glass because it will help preserve all the bubbles. Put a couple of ice cubes and pour some good whiskey over it. Top it off with soda water or seltzer. You should pour two times the amount of whiskey to get the ratio right. Experts state that the water should be as cold as possible to keep the ice cubes from melting. You will not need to stir the drink as the bubbles will already do it for you, in a way.


Of course, since Highball is such a simple cocktail, there are numerous alternatives and versions that people created over the years. One of the most noticeable differences is the selection of the right spirit. While whiskey is something of a classic choice, people also used rum heavily, especially combined with a ginger brew. This version works great with a bit of lemon or lime. If you prefer soda water, though, you should try mixing it with Campari. Its unique taste will give you something to think about. There is also a summer, refreshing version called South Side that features gin, syrup, lemon juice, mint, and club soda. It is extremely refreshing and still gives you that exclusive Highball feeling when you drink it. Once you try all these variations, if none of them actually works for you, perhaps you just need to go back to the good old classic Highball.

Have you tried Highball yet? Which version do you like best?