Summer Highballs: Easy Mixed Drinks Using Aged Spirits

June 22, 2019

As summer sets in and temperatures continue to rise, finding a drink that works hard to cool you down, and takes minimal effort to make, is essential. Luckily, the Highball hits both marks. There’s some debate about how far the definition of a Highball extends—is a Tom Collins a Highball? Or a whiskey and Coke? Arguments aside, at its core the drink is a simple blend of spirit, soda water and plenty of ice. While it’s most often associated with whiskey, a Highball can be fortified with any spirit, from vodka to tequila. Think of the Highball as a sort of Spritz—equally effervescent and refreshing, but double the proof.

This cocktail first became popular at the end of the 19th century, and while soda siphons have been replaced with bottles of artisanal seltzer, it’s as easy and refreshing as ever. Ready for your fill of refreshing summer Highballs? From Japanese whisky to Caribbean rum, here are five spirits that lengthen beautifully with soda water to get you through the dog days of summer.

Hakushu 12 Year

For many years now, the Highball has been ubiquitous in Japanese cocktail bars—and that popularity has proven contagious. The drink is now popping back up on U.S. cocktail menus, from New York to San Francisco. To make a traditional Japanese Highball, be sure all of your ingredients are the best quality you can find. A good start would be to include this lovely single malt whisky from Suntory: Hakushu 12 Year.

First, fill your glass with ice, then add two ounces of whisky and top with soda water. To finish it off in the traditional style, stir 13 and a half times. You’ll find that this Japanese single malt not only maintains its complexity in a Highball, but that the effervescence also enhances its delicate smoky and fruity notes.

Summer Highballs


Westward American Single Malt

If you’re a devotee of the classic scotch and soda, it might be difficult to switch your allegiance. But the only thing you’ll regret about mixing a Highball with this Portland, OR-made single malt whiskey is not having tried it sooner. The whiskey itself is pot-distilled with Oregon-grown two-row pale malted barley that’s been fermented with ale yeast.

This lends a delightfully round, malty flavor to the whiskey that comes through in a Highball with ease. As an added bonus, note how the soda’s pop and fizz accentuates the whiskey’s lovely cinnamon and orange rind notes.

The Real McCoy 5 Year Rum

When the sun is beating down, the first thing you might crave is central air conditioning. A Highball fortified with the perfect portion of rum, however, will do you one better: it will transport you to the shores of a picturesque Caribbean island. This five-year aged rum is made on Barbados by venerated fifth-generation distiller Richard Seale. It carries the perfect amount of flavor and complexity to be enjoyed in a summer Highball.

The more closely you look, the more flavors you’ll enjoy out of this rum. These range from grilled pineapple and banana to spicy pepper and rich vanilla and toffee. Add a slice of lime to the mix to accentuate some of the citrus flavors. You’ll relish in the fact that it won’t break the bank if you plan to enjoy a few.

FEW Barrel Gin

Gin may not be the first spirit that comes to mind when you think of a classic spirit-meets-soda water Highball, but this is no ordinary gin. FEW Barrel Gin, an Illinois-based aged gin, is a melange of the best aspects of gin and whiskey.

Aged in both new American oak and former rye and bourbon barrels, the gin achieves a balance of warm spice and vanilla notes alongside bright cardamom and citrus flavors. This plays out as well as you’d expect in a refresher such as the Highball, which is to say, very.

Summer Highballs: FEW Barrel GinFEW Barrel Gin

Espolòn Añejo Tequila

Tequila is known for its ability to stand out even in cocktails laden with citrus and sugar. Its unique and often vegetal character, however, is even more impressive in simple cocktails like the Highball. This mixed drink allows all of its nuances to shine. Espolòn Añejo spends 10 months in new American oak before it’s finished for two months in used Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels.

This gives it an impressive array of flavors, from bright herbal and floral notes to richer notes like vanilla and roasted agave. Mixed into a summer Highball those flavors are lifted and given life in a cocktail that proves even more refreshing than a Margarita.

Summer Highballs: Espolòn Añejo TequilaEspolòn Añejo Tequila

Making your own summer highballs this summer?

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