Male bartender pouring from a jigger into a glass.

The Art of Building Cocktails Directly in the Glass

Dive into the world of the built cocktail with tips and technique essentials and learn how to make drinks like a Whisky Highball directly in the glass.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

In the world of cocktails, sometimes simplicity speaks volumes. While certain drinks demand complex techniques, there's an understated elegance in building a cocktail directly in its serving glass. 

What is a Built Cocktail? 

A built cocktail uses the straightforward technique of adding ingredients to the serving glass. This method is perfect for cocktails that don't require additional tools for preparation or need only minimal dilution from shaking or stirring. Building is also great for high-volume environments that rely on speedy preparation. 


Three Technique Essentials

  1. Glass Selection: Opt for a glass that complements the cocktail's character. For instance, a highball glass suits long mixed drinks.  
  2. Order Matters: Begin with the primary spirit, ensuring accurate measurement for balance. Follow with any additional spirits or liqueurs, and finish with mixers or carbonated ingredients. This sequence helps achieve a natural integration of flavors.  
  3. Ice: Add ice before the mixers. Use large, dense ice cubes or spheres for slower dilution and sustained chilling. 

Build Cocktail Best Practices

  • Quality Ingredients: When building directly, each ingredient is distinctly prominent. Ensure every component, from spirits to mixers, is of high quality.  
  • Measurement: Use a jigger or measuring tool for precision. Direct mixing leaves little room for correction, making accurate proportions crucial.  
  • Integration: Some cocktails benefit from a gentle stir after building to ensure consistency. However, be careful with carbonated mixers to avoid losing effervescence.  
  • Garnish Last: Once the cocktail is built, add the appropriate garnish to finish the cocktail. It adds aroma and visual appeal and signifies the drink's identity. 

Johnnie Walker Highball

Enjoy the complex layers of Johnnie Walker Black Label in this classic highball that highlights its smoky flavors. See recipe here.   

  • The traditional highball uses only two ingredients – a spirit and a carbonated mixer.  
  • Its origins date back to the 19th century when the English upper class started mixing brandy with soda water, which was becoming more readily available.  
  • With its proximity to Scotland's budding whisky distilleries, brandy was replaced with Scotch to create the Whisky Highball we know today.  
  • The Highball is praised for its ability to make the whisky the star of the show and has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. 

Learn how to build a Johnnie Walker Highball

Key Takeaways 

  1.  Simplicity Speaks Volumes: Building a drink directly in its serving glass offers an understated elegance. 
  2. The Built Cocktail Technique: The built cocktail technique involves adding ingredients directly to the glass. It's perfect for drinks that don't require additional tools and is ideal for high-volume settings. 
  3. Best Practices: Embrace best practices like using high-quality ingredients, precise measurement, gentle stirring when necessary, and adding the garnish last to enhance aroma and visual appeal. 
  4. Johnnie Walker Highball: Explore the history and revival of the classic highball cocktail, a perfect example of a built cocktail dating back to the 19th century.  

In essence, building cocktails directly in the serving glass celebrates the purity of each ingredient. It's a technique that demands accuracy, respect for each component, and an appreciation for the cocktail's inherent beauty. Whether it's a refreshing spritz on a summer day, or a cosy lowball by the fireplace, the art of building delivers impeccable drinks with every pour. 

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