The Highball is indeed a drink for the ages - its history is vast, dating back to the 1890’s. It’s not certain who invented it but there are some definite rules to stick by when making the perfect Highball cocktail as Josh Reynolds from Scout Sydney demonstrates.
Inspiration and tips
TIPS TO ELEVATE THE HIGHBALL
PLAY NICE WITH ICE
Ice is often overlookedbut is probably of one the most important ingredients when constructing a highball. Ice not only chills drinks but, as it melts, it becomes a vital part of the cocktail itself and subtly alters the flavour and consistency.
A drink like the highball should always be served ice cold with medium or large ice cubes to slow dilution. There is nothing more disappointing than a whisky highball made with premium spirit to be the ruined with wet or small ice cubes that melt instantly because there is not enough of them supporting the surrounding liquid. Don’t make this mistake – pack your glass full of ice, ideally using ice straight from the freezer!
THE LONG AND SHORT OF GLASSWARE
There are several variations of the highball, but the tall glass is a constant. When you think of it, the clue is in the name really and a highball should only be served in a tall, narrow glass. Why? So the spirit and mixer are compact and held firm in the glass. This maximises carbonation levels and allows the mixer to pull the spirit throughout the entirety of the drink.
As for the temperature of the glass, it should be cold, ideally coming out of the freezer or at the very least, a fridge.
DON’T BURST MY BUBBLE
In a cocktail where bubbles are crucial, your aim is to preserve carbonation for a refreshing drink. The key to carbonation is simple. Temperature! When constructing a highball, mixers must be kept cold for exceptional and sustained levels of carbonation when adding to spirit.
Pouring room temperature mixers over ice does two things:
1. The shock from warm mixer to extreme cold kills the bubbles in the mixer making a flat, undesirable drink.
2. Known as “Drowning” the drink– pouring warm mixer over good ice prematurely melts the ice (even worse if one is pouring over ice that has been sitting out all day) adding unwanted dilution to an already fragile drink.
So please, keep your mixers cold!
LIFT YOUR SPIRITS
Bars all over the world keep gin and vodka frozen, just think of an arctic Martini! So, I ask you this, why not keep Johnnie Walker in the freezer too for your whisky highballs? At the very least you should keep the bottle of whisky chilled before use!
JOHNNIE BE GOOD
So, let’s make a Johnnie Walker highball!
Frozen glass – check
1 measure of Johnnie Walker poured into frozen glass – check
Now, do you proceed to add your mixer and ice on top? Or do you add the ice then top up with your mixer?
I always add ice first followed by the mixer. Why? Throwing ice on top of the spirit and mixer is too aggressive and bruises the bubbles, resulting in a less effervescent drink. By adding ice first, you can control how much mixer you’re adding, control carbonation and fit more ice in the glass if needed, resulting in no floating ice.
Click here for a handy infographic for making the perfect highball.
GAME CHANGING HIGHBALLS
At Scout we try to push boundaries with our Johnnie Walker highballs and have done so with some great results! We like to play around with the texture of a highball and have freeze washed Johnnie walker with caramelized strawberry cream. To make the soda mixer more exciting, we’ve also made our own using cascara (the shell of the coffee bean) mixer!
In one of our more recent whisky highballs we played around with stone fruits like pluot and nectarine to really lean of those fruity notes of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Check out Matt Whiley’s Instagram takeover to see how some of the innovative highballs we are making!
- Ice cubes should be medium sized and fresh from the freezer
- Mixers kept cold to prevent them from drowning the drink and prematurely melting ice
- Keep your spirit in the freezer for optimal chill
- Adding ice before you add the mixer gives you more control over the levels of mixer and levels carbonation
- Preserving carbonation levels is vital at every touch point.
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