As winter fades and the first peeks of warm weather are beginning to appear, so does the shifting of tastes among those who enjoy a cooling, refreshing cocktail on such days. The Whiskey Highball is a classic cocktail that fits that theme but there are ways to jazz up the drink for all four seasons.
The Highball’s history has been debated over the years with some claiming the cocktail got its start in America and others saying it is an imported concept from Europe. From the various sources I looked over, including the always excellent Difford’s Guide, the cocktail has origins that seem to point to the late 1800s, and in the 1930s, Patrick Gavin Duffy claims to have brought the cocktail to the states in 1895.
Another theory that has been kicked around is that it was based on a 19th Century railroad signal. As it has been explained, if a ball is raised on a signal post, then a train could pass through the tracks without having to stop its movement. So, given the speed of creating the cocktail and the peppy buzz it inspires, that too has a possible connection. Truthfully, nobody knows can seem to agree on where the originating Highball was born but all signs seemingly point towards England.
So then, the art of crafting a perfect Highball is rooted in its beautiful simplicity as well. You can literally use any whiskey or scotch, and there are some who say brandy is a good choice. I’ve made a good amount of Highballs over the years and my most recent creation used Woodinville Bourbon, an award-winning straight bourbon out of Washington state, not usually a region known for the brown elixir.
That said, the juice inside the bottle is delicious neat with a sweet finish that is almost dessert-like. It has become my favorite daily bourbon and it’s amazingly affordable — for now. For my club soda, I used Fever-Tree, which makes some of the best mixers around. Of course, it’s up to individual tastes so use what you can find locally. The recipe I used is listed out below.
2oz bourbon (or spirit of your choosing)
4oz club soda
Tom Collins glass (chilled via ice water or left in the freezer for at least one hour)
In a pre-chilled glass, fill to near the top with good, clear cubed ice and not crushed as it’ll melt too quickly.
Chill the bourbon in a mixing glass over ice and strain over the rocks-filled glass.
Then, slowly pour in the club soda, no stirring or mixing needed as the bubbles do all the work.
That’s it. Now, a Tom Collins glass is a tall, narrow glass usually between 9 to 12 ozs with 10.5 being a good sweet spot. The idea is to have everything cold as to not dilute the drink. The cold glass, ice, and chilled whiskey make for a long drink that will be good until the last sip.
Some might want to add a bar spoon of simple syrup into their drink or add ginger beer (Q Mixers makes a great one) in place of the club soda. The key is something boozy, something bubbly, all ice cold. It’s also a great way to introduce novice bourbon and scotch drinkers to the fine spirits. If you want to go for fall flavors, adding a little cinnamon to your simple syrup recipes could be an option. Again, it’s all about one’s tastes and preferences.
I’m not a photographer as I’m sure some of you realize, but here’s my latest attempt.
As always, sip safely and surely.
Photo: D.L. Chandler/Getty