Two bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label. One standing up and one laying down.

Blogs & Inspiration

Take Your Highball To The Next Level

Elevate the classic highball cocktail with a few essential tips to get the perfect serve each time.

Author: Josh Reynolds, Bar Director at The Point

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

With a history that dates back to the 1890’s, the Highball is a cocktail that stands the test of time despite the fact that no one knows for sure who invented it. Sticking to a few essential rules when making a Highball will lead to a perfect pour each time. Josh Reynolds, formerly from Scout Sydney and now Bar Director at Australian hospitality group The Point, demonstrates his take on this classic drink.

Warning – this cocktail is fragile in nature!

ICE ICE, BABY

Just about everyone adds ice to a Highball, but the importance of this ingredient is often overlooked. Not only does it chill the cocktail, but it influences the flavour and consistency as it melts. To help slow dilution, a Highball is best served ice cold with medium or large ice cubes. Wet or small ice cubes will melt instantly – a huge disappointment when a customer has just ordered a premium drink. Packing a glass full of ice, ideally right from the freezer, will help you avoid this mistake.

 

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE GLASSWARE

Regardless of the variation you are making, the clue is in the name – using a tall, narrow glass is the key to this cocktail. This helps keep both the spirit and mixer compact and firmly held within the glass, maximising carbonation levels and allowing the mixer to pull the spirit throughout the entire drink. The glass is best used cold, preferably coming right out of the freezer or a fridge.

CARBONATION IS KEY

A perfectly crafted Highball preserves carbonation – again, the key is the temperature! Mixers must be kept cold for sustained levels of carbonation when it’s added to the spirit. Pouring room temperature mixers over ice can ruin the cocktail, as two things will happen:

  1. The bubbles in the mixer are killed from the shock from warm mixer to extreme cold, leading to an undesirable drink.
  2. Pouring warm mixer over cold ice will quickly melt it, adding unwanted dilution. This will be even worse if the ice has been sitting out all day.

All in all, play it safe and keep your mixers cold!

 

THE COLDER THE BETTER

Gin and vodka are commonly kept frozen in bars all over the world (arctic Martini anyone?). Why not put a twist on your whisky highballs and keep Jonnie Walker in the freezer too? The bottle of whisky should be kept chilled before use, at the least.

Johnnie Be Good

With that said, let’s make a Johnnie Walker highball!

I’m always sure to add ice first before the mixer. To me, it’s crucial: throwing ice on top of both the spirit and mixer can bruise the bubbles and lead to a less effervescent drink. Adding the ice first allows you to control how much mixer you’re adding, controls carbonation and helps you to fit more ice in the glass if need, with no floating ice.

INNOVATIVE HIGHBALLS

I’m always looking for ways to push boundaries. Textures are something I like to mess around with, one a favourite being freeze washed Johnnie Walker with some caramelised strawberry cream. We’ve even created our own mixer using cascara (a coffee bean shell)! When I worked at Scout Sydney, we had some fun with stone fruits like pluot and nectarine in efforts to really play on the fruity notes of Johnnie Walker Black Label. If you’re interested in other industry-shaking highballs we created, you can check out Matt Whiley’s Instagram takeover!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Medium-sized ice cubes fresh from the freezer are best.
  • Keep mixers cold, to prevent drowning the drink and prematurely melting ice.
  • Spirits should be stored in the freezer for peak chill.
  • Have more control over the levels of mixer and levels carbonation by adding ice pre-mixer.
  • It’s essential to preserve carbonation levels at each step.

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