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There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 5) - The Highball

There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 5) - The Highball

As we continue our cocktail exploration, it’s time to talk Whiskey Highballs. 

The highball started as a way to turn whiskey into a long drink, but it has given birth to so many variations on a theme, that reading them out sounds like you’re reciting the cocktail list from top to bottom.


Rusty Barrel Cocktails - Bartender London


But before we go too carried away, let’s clear one thing up.

Is it Whisky or Whiskey?

Well, whether you add the ‘e’ or not depends on where your spirit hails from.

The most well known whiskey producing countries are:

  • Scotland 
  • Ireland 
  • USA
  • Canada

(Plus, a rising number from Japan, and many, many others.)

And the countries are split (almost) down the middle 50/50 when it comes to spelling.

#teamwhisky consists of Scotland, Canada, and Japan and representing #teamwhiskey are Ireland, and the USA. 

The other countries tend to switch between the two depending on who you ask.

For the sake of consistency, we’re going with #teamwhiskey from now on!


But whether you’re a whiskey fan or a whisky devotee, there are plenty of different styles to choose from. Smokey or smooth, single malt or a blend, a few years old to double-digits spent in oak barrels. 

This variety means the “perfect” Highball is in the taste of the drinker.

So what actually is a Highball?

In the true sense of the cocktail, it’s “Scotch and Soda” in a ratio of around 1:3. Sometimes with a garnish, most of the time with ice.

The Classic: Whisky Highball

  • 50 ml Scotch Whisky
  • 150 ml soda water
  • 1 lemon wedge

  •  The How 

    Pour the whisky into a highball glass and add 2-3 ice cubes (or one large cube) and give it a stir with a bar spoon for 3-5 seconds. 

    Pour over the soda, and give it another stir (only once, or you risk flattening the bubbles. The highball is all about the bubbles).

    Add the wedge, a Rusty Barrel Soho Metal Straw, and take a sip.


    But if you start playing with the spirit, the mixer and the ratio, you discover the (very) extended highball family—essentially a spirit and a mixer.

    So,  that includes:

    • Rum and coke
    • Gin and tonic
    • Archers and lemonade (if you must!)

    And you can then go further.... 

    Add some lime juice to your rum and coke and you have a Cuba Libre. Change the tonic for orange juice in your vodka tonic and you’ve got a Screwdriver.

    And further still….

    An Americano is a highball made with 50:50 Campari to Vermouth mixed with soda. A Tequila Sunrise is a highball made with tequila, orange juice, lime juice (just a dash) and about 10ml of Grenadine. A Harvey Wallbanger is a highball made with vodka, Galiano (3:1), orange juice, and a dash of lemon juice.


    You get the picture.


    But our favourite highball variations are the two cocktails that society has deemed acceptable to drink before lunch. 

    (We don’t want to encourage that sort of behaviour, but if you’re having one…)

    The Curveballs

    Buck’s Fizz

  • 2 parts Champagne
  • 1 part Orange Juice

     The How 

    Pour the orange juice into a chilled flute, followed by the Champagne.

    (flip the ratio to be 2 parts orange juice to 1 part champagne, and you’ve got a Mimosa.)

    And the ultimate morning-after-the-night-before highball:


    Rusty Barrel Mimosa


    Bloody Mary

    There’s a fair bit of debate over the Bloody Mary name—many claim it’s named after England’s first female monarch, (and daughter of Henry VIII), Mary I of England. 

    (not to be excused with the ‘Queen of Scots,”—she’s an altogether different Mary!). 

    This “Bloody” Mary got her ruthless reputation for attempting to reverse Daddy’s purge of the Catholics with an equally violent persecution of Protestants. 

    Other drinkers claim The Bloody Mary is named after a friend of the bartender who invented it, which isn’t half as much fun but sounds plausible.

    Whoever named it, this fiery little number is the ultimate savoury highball

    The How

    • 50 ml vodka
    • 250 ml tomato juice
    • Dash of lemon juice (and a wedge to serve)
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Tabasco sauce
    • Black pepper
    • Celery salt
    • Celery stick

    Rim the glass with celery salt and black pepper (and add a pinch of each to the cocktail), and then fill with ice, add the remaining ingredients, and give it a stir.

    Garnish with your lemon wedge and celery stick and you’re ready to enjoy brunch!


    Rusty Barrel Bloody Mary Cocktail


    Now that we’ve discovered the highball family, we’ve got one style of cocktail left.

    It’s time to get all adventurous as we introduce an ingredient we’ve yet to talk about.

    If you’re a “slimline only” sort of person, you may want to skip the next one, but for everyone else, we’re about to strike it rich.

    Welcome to the world of indulgent, dairy-based cocktails.

    Introducing the Flip.

    But that’s for another day.


    Rusty Barrel Park Lane

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