A Whiskey Highball is a classic drink for a good reason - it is tall, bubbly, refreshing, and full of whiskey flavor. A simple and delicious way to enjoy your favorite whiskey!
What is a Whiskey Highball
A Whiskey Highball is a two-ingredient mixed drink that originated around the turn of the 20th century. And it’s still a popular cocktail across the globe to this day, especially in Japan.
The addition of soda water with whiskey removes the whiskey’s bite and burn and allows instead the nuance and delicacy of the liquor to shine. And the addition of bubbles adds a light and refreshing feel to the drink.
A Whiskey Highball is part of the family of highball cocktails which are a style of mixed drinks that combine a spirit with a larger percentage of a non-alcoholic mixer. Some other famous examples of highball drinks include gin and tonic, vodka cranberry, and rum and coke.
But a Whiskey Highball (also known as a whiskey soda) is proof that a drink comprising of only a few ingredients can still showcase a range of complexity and depth of flavor. Each ingredient serves a purpose, adding nuance and dimension to this seemingly straightforward drink.
Want to learn more about making mixed drinks with whiskey? Then check out our WHAT TO MIX WITH WHISKEY post to find out everything you need to know!
Ingredients and Notes
This tasty drink is made with a few simple ingredients that combine to create a well-balanced bubbly cocktail. Due to the simplicity of a Whiskey Highball, each ingredient is especially important.
The ingredients you will need are listed below or you can find a full, detailed recipe at the end of this post.
- Whiskey. You can use any style of whiskey you like best to make this drink. We recommend a whiskey that is heavily oaked with prominent sweet, caramel notes to counteract the soda water’s hint of acid.
- Soda water. You can use any plain sparkling water, club soda, or seltzer you like best for adding bubbles to your drink. The key is to make sure it is well chilled. The colder temperature helps slow the rate at which carbon dioxide molecules (aka the bubbles) escape the water.
- Lemon. A lemon wedge is used as both a garnish and an ingredient in a whiskey highball. The juice from the lemon wedge is added to the drink to bring brightness and balance.
- Ice. To keep the drink cold and refreshing. The ice is vital in keeping the drink chilled and therefore maintaining maximum carbonation.
Looking for some insight into choosing the best whiskey? Check out our post about THE BEST WHISKEY TO DRINK STRAIGHT.
Soda Water vs Ginger Beer
The highball was originally mixed with plain soda water in the late 1800s. But ginger ale or ginger beer has become a common substitute. The soda's sweetness and flavor notes act as a good accent to the dry, spicy whiskey.
But if you’re a true whiskey lover, then rather use the traditional soda water. It’s the best way to appreciate the complexity of whiskey with no additional sweetness or flavor.
Love ginger beer cocktails? Then you have to check out our delicious PINEAPPLE GIN & GINGER BEER COCKTAIL!
How to make a Whiskey Highball
Like most highball cocktail recipes, you can build a Whiskey Highball in its serving glass! So it is a quick and easy drink to mix up without the need for any fancy bar equipment.
You can follow the step-by-step instructions below, or you can find a full, detailed recipe card at the end of this post.
Fill a highball serving glass with ice cubes.
Add the whiskey and top it with soda water. Give it a gentle stir.
Garnish with a squeezed lemon wedge and serve immediately.
How to serve this cocktail
A Whiskey Highball is a simple drink that can be served and enjoyed in many different ways. You can change up the garnish depending on your preference, making it as plain or elaborate as you like.
The traditional serving glass for a Whiskey Highball is a tall, narrow glass which is referred to as a Highball Glass. The drink is also built and served in this highball glass, (or a similarly shaped Collins glass) which gives the ice ample contact with the liquid.
A classic garnish for a Whiskey Highball is a wedge of lemon. But if you want to stray away from tradition there are many other garnish options that will work well with this simple drink. These include fresh herbs, lemon zest, edible flowers, lime wheel, etc.
Recipe Tips and Notes
Use good-quality ingredients: A good-quality whiskey and soda water will make a big difference in the flavor of your drink. So choose the best you can for maximum flavor results.
Measure accurately: Use a jigger or a measuring cup to measure your ingredients accurately. A precise measurement can make a big difference in the balance and flavor of your cocktail.
Chill the ingredients before mixing: Chill the whiskey and soda water before making your cocktail. This will help to keep the drink cool and refreshing for longer.
Drink responsibly: A whiskey tonic is a relatively light drink. If you make it with 80-proof whiskey, it will have an alcohol content of just 9 percent ABV (18 proof), which makes it lighter than a glass of wine.
Classic Whiskey Highball
- 1 highball glass
- 1 measuring jigger
- 2 ounce whiskey
- 4 ounce soda water
- 1 lemon wedge
- ice cubes for serving
- Fill a highball serving glass with ice cubes.
- Add the whiskey and top it with soda water. Give it a gentle stir.
- Garnish with a squeezed lemon wedge and serve immediately.