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The Odd Couple

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

It's time for the last two types of cocktail genres to be discussed and so this post then covers Highball and Old Fashioned cocktails.

I have given the title of this week's offering as the "Odd Couple" because on first inspection, the two options would seem to cover the least visited of cocktail types compared to the previously described Martinis, Daiquiris, Flips and Sidecars of this world. However, I hope that the next few paragraphs will create some interest in options that are both fun and bursting with flavour and different options.


Starting with the highballs…. Where does the term come from. Romantically, from the railways, when the train was getting up to high speed

the pressure indicator was a ball that would rise to the top of a glass column to indicate increasing pressure. Alternatively, it could relates to the coining of the phrase - “having a ball” (ie having a party / drink / knees up / rave depending on your generation with a drink served in a high glass). Choose your origin, I’ll go for the trains (I know it’s likely more boring than that but hey - so what!).

So what’s a highball….

It's a.....

… in some ways, the simplest drinks to serve beyond a dram of whisky.

But then the attention to detail is the key here.

Right glass.

Right mixer.

Right core

By all accounts, this is where the Highball Cocktail comes into its own in Japan - where the cocktail preparation assumes the importance that we would perhaps more readily appreciate by equating it to the Japanese tea Ceremony. Admirable.

So what about variations.....

  1. Americano has the spirit as a mix of Campari & sweet vermouth

  2. Aperol Spritz - has a mix of Aperol and champagne / sparkling wine and soda

  3. Harvey Wallbanger - vodka and a small float of Galliano and orange juice

  4. Tequila sunrise - tequila with orange juice and grenadine

Okay, so how to play around with essentially the easiest cocktail recipe in the book…

Rule one - use a high quality spirit base . (If not, it’ll shine through for the wrong reasons.) In other words a high quality spirit base (?combination) that allows for distinctive and unique flavours to shine through. Consider the fortified wines as per the Americano as above.

Now here’s the thing - a real highball should, in theory, be made up of spirit and sparkling water - not soda. Sparkling water is different to soda, which has carbonated gas that makes the water acidic due to the solution formed between gas (CO2) and water.

There’s a German town called Neiderseltser that has a mineral spring that gives forth bubbly water which became all the rage a hundred or so years ago (and more) and in doing so gave birth, it would seem to the term Seltzer Water.

To keep the bubbles in your seltzer water / soda / fizzy drink of any kind, keep it cold. The gas will come out of solution (ie the drink goes flat) quicker when the temperature of the drink rises. However, be aware too that any impurities on the glass will cause millions of "focus points" for the gas to become attracted to, and thereby another reason for it to come out of solution. This also applies to the irregularity of the surface of the ice cubes used in your drink.

Be aware that carbonated water, by being acid, affects the nature of a drink by making it less sweet tasting. Hence the need to consider adding sweetness.

Try these options as well as the classics noted above - all three are highballs….