The Whisky Highball
The whisky highball is an iconic, deliciously understated, long whisky drink, so called referring to the tall glasses they are served in. Traditionally a spirit-forward whisky highball is comprised of whisky and ice topped with carbonated water. The rise of a wider variety of mixers has led to new, innovative combinations – starting with a whisky and ginger ale, or ginger beer to balance and sweeten the drink.
Technically, a whisky highball is the simplest of drinks to make, with the addition of sparkling water elevating the natural flavours and characters of whisky beautifully. In softening the strength of the alcohol, it creates a more refreshing drink and, with innumerable options for garnish, the right Highball can complement almost any meal; making it perfect for a place where the two go hand in hand.
Whisky highball ingredients
How to make a whisky highball
Simply, combine one-part whisky to three-parts soda or sparkling water over ice.
Use chilled glassware, don’t be shy on the ice, and use a playful, aromatic garnish to elevate a simple long drink into one to savour on a summer afternoon.
The sparkling fizz of the soda draws out the complexity of the flavours in the spirit and the tiny, neutralising bubbles are preserved perfectly in a tall, narrow glass. Chilling your glassware – the colder the better, compliments the soda water’s carbonation. An active ingredient in the drink is the quantity of ice, designed to chill quickly and dissolve slowly.
You can use any whisky that you personally favour to make a whisky highball – from a grassy peaty single malt, vanilla laced Bourbon, or ginger spiced blended whisky.
Once stirred, a garnish of lemon or lime zest or a wedge of citrus fruit juiced into the drink will complement almost every whisky choice. The nutty, vanilla and orchard fruit flavours in a whisky will generally always benefit from citrus twist in a whisky highball - simply pinch a strip of orange or lemon peel to release the citrus oils before adding to your drink with a flourish.
Take your highball to another level
The Japanese Highball
The art of creating the Japanese Highball is not, your average whisky soda.
It is a cocktail crafted with meticulous attention to detail, using only the highest quality ingredients.
Japan has a captivating and multi-dimensional culture. On one hand, it is deeply rooted in traditions dating back thousands of years, while on the other, it’s fast-moving trends, fashions and technology consistently break new ground.
At The Lakes, we hold a close affinity towards our friends in Japanese whisky distilleries. We share an unrelenting focus on learning, developing and continuously improving to create more flavour in our whisky. Constant introspection, innovation and a desire to learn from Scotch Whisky heritage but interpret it in our own way, align us as ‘new world’ whiskymakers.
Japan is a nation of drinkers who socialise in izakayas (an informal Japanese bar) to enjoy delicious highballs of Kirin, Suntory and Nikka inspired whisky with soda, accompanied almost always with food or otsumami.
The Japanese Highball has become an iconic symbol of Japanese drinking culture. Unlike so many other nations, it has been the catalyst for the country’s love of whisky, rather than the laggard, with everyone from party-goers to businessmen ending the workday enjoying whisky topped up with soda water.
Perhaps the most famous Japanese Highball – and certainly most particular – is the Mizuwari.
Meaning ‘water’ (Mizu) and ‘divide’ (Wari), it is a ritual which begins by filling a tall glass with ice and stirring with a bar spoon until the glass is chilled.
Once any melted water has been discarded, large cubes of crystal clear ice are added, before whisky is poured and stirred 13½ times clockwise. Ice-making is considered almost an art form by bartenders in Japan, where the style of cube, or ball, is often hand-carved to chill quickly and dilute slowly.
Delicately the glass is filled with sparkling water, poured between the glass and ice and, using a bar spoon, the mixture is stirred a further 3½ times clockwise.
Nestling the spoon underneath the base of the ice, lift gently upwards allowing the whisky and water to fully combine before enjoying a drink that is as equally refreshing as it is delicious.
Here we create a twist on a whisky highball to create a Long Old Fashioned. Using the core components of an Old Fashioned as the base of the drink, to elongate and balance the intense botanicals in a sweet vermouth with ginger ale.
50ml The One Fine Blended Whisky
20ml Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Top with London Essence Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lemon twist
Using a tall, chilled glass, fill to the brim with large cubes of clear ice. Add the whisky, bitters and vermouth, topping up with the ginger ale. Stir well with a long barspoon to integrate the flavours before garnishing with a twist of lemon peel.
Try it at home
Whisky to make a Whisky Highball