The Whisky Highball drink has dominated the drinking scene in Japan for decades – and now, it’s now picking up the global pace.
The highball drink is a familiar format; a base spirit paired with a (often carbonated) mixer. The Whisky Highball ingredients centre around whisky (obviously) and simple soda water to showcase the complex flavour profile of the whisky.
But did you know there’s more to a Whisky Highball than just whisky and soda? Find out more about the history of the highball and our favourite Whisky Highball drink recipes.
What is a Whisky Highball?
A Whisky Highball is one of the oldest Scotch whisky classics, made up of three simple ingredients: whisky, soda and ice.
The tiny bubbles and neutral flavour make soda water a great mixer for whisky, while the long highball drink format with lots of ice is incredibly refreshing.
These three elements make up a classic Whisky Highball, but this classic is easily customisable with juice, additional mixers, garnishes and more.
The Story of the Whisky Highball
If you’re wondering, ‘What is the story of highball cocktail?’, we’re afraid there’s no set answer. It’s generally agreed that the concept of drinking whisky with soda came about in the 19th century when carbonated water became more readily available, but no one can be sure of who came up with the Whisky Highball and where that occurred.
While its origins are debated, one thing that is widely accepted is where the Whisky Highball was popularised: Japan. Ordered widely in bars and restaurants, it’s seen as a refreshing alternative to beer that can be enjoyed in both formal and informal occasions, at any time of day. As well as being easy to make and consume, Whisky Highballs in Japan are often seen as art, with many bartenders creating stunning variations of a classic.
What is a Whisky Highball glass?
A Whisky Highball glass is a tall glass tumbler designed for mixed drinks poured over ice. Its tall format is ideal for this and also allows the bubbles to rise.
Like how the origins of the Whisky Highball drink is debated, so is the name ‘highball’ itself. One belief is that ball was bartenders’ slang for glass, and this drink is best served in a tall (ie. high) glass.
The other is to do with railroads, where at maximum train speed the ball indicator would be highest in the tank, and two short whistle blows followed by one long one were given – in the same way two shots of whisky would be followed by one long pour of soda in the drink.
Another glass ideal for enjoying Whisky Highballs in is a tankard. With thicker glass than standard highball glasses, a tankard is perfect for keeping drinks icy cold. In addition, a handle attached to the drink keeps heat away from the drink when holding it – keeping it chilled for longer.
Whisky Highball recipes
A classic Whisky Highball is refreshing and delicious – but it’s not the only way to enjoy this combo. Try our range of Whisky Highball variations to find your new favourite drink.
1. Classic Whisky Highball recipe
A classic Whisky Highball cocktail is incredibly simple, created to showcase the complex flavour profile of the whisky. We love using Chivas 12 or Chivas Mizunara in a Whisky Highball drink, but our whole range will shine in this cocktail. The Whisky Highball calorie count also makes it an appealing option, sitting at just 100 calories for a 50ml serve of Chivas and soda – which is half of what you’d find in a pint of lager.
2. Eldeflower Highball recipe
Yes, highball drinks are widely enjoyed because they’re refreshing and delicious. But we’ll let you in on a secret – it’s also because they’re incredibly easy. Built in a glass with no shaking or stirring required, it couldn’t be simpler. An Elderflower Highball adds a sweet yet botanical flavour to Chivas 12 and soda with just an additional dash of cordial – ready in less than a minute.
3. Peach Highball recipe
Like most Whisky Highball variations, the Peach Highball is super simple. This Whisky Highball’s ingredients list simply adds Crème de Pêche to the winning trio of Chivas Mizunara , soda and ice for a sweet drink that even whisky newbies will love.
4. Plum Highball recipe
The Whisky Highball cocktail was popularised in Japan, Chivas Mizunara was inspired by Japan – so we had to put two and two together and create this homage to Japan. Rich, sweet and aromatic, the Plum Highball features Umeshu plum wine for a classy highball drink you’ll want to make again and again.
5. Rosé Highball recipe
Those Angostura bitters in your drink’s cabinet aren’t just for use in fancy cocktails. The Rosé Highball includes aromatic bitters alongside the light and fruity flavours of Lillet Rosé, making this Whisky Highball variation with Chivas Extra 13 ideal for long summer days. Rosé wine, who?
6. Spiced Apricot Highball recipe
We wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never thought to use tea in cocktails. We would, however, highly recommend it. This Whisky Highball variation features the use of apricot and chai tea, which adds a delicately spiced base to marry together with the butterscotch notes in Chivas XV.
7. Spiced Orange Highball recipe
Orange and cinnamon are absolutely not flavours that should be left for Christmas. Creating a tea with these ingredients is ideal for bringing out the orange marmalade notes of Chivas 18, making this highball drink incredibly, well, drinkable.
8. Maya Bay cocktail recipe
If you’re looking to step up your Whisky Highball recipe game, step forward now. With the use of a tropical homemade lychee, lemongrass and coconut cordial – and delicate Chivas Mizunara– the Maya Bay will transport you to the tropical shores of Thailand in just one sip. Who needs a holiday when you’ve got this…?