My first highball was an equal mixture of Captain Morgan spiced rum and Diet Coke poured into a red Solo cup. Everything about it was wrong. The proportions were off. The mixer was gross. And the ice was made by a freezer whose lines probably hadn’t been cleaned in some time.
A highball, you see, is deceptively simple. It’s just two ingredients—booze and fizzy not-booze—poured into a tall glass with some ice. It’s easy to make a good one, but even easier to make a bad one. Classic highballs you know and love—G&Ts, vodka sodas, whiskey gingers, and scotch & sodas—can all be made extremely delicious by avoiding a few pitfalls.
Firstly, don’t use the ice that comes out of your freezer ice-machine, unless you know those lines are clean. Completely clear ice isn’t necessary, but it will take your highball to the next level, especially if you’re using the good stuff, like an expensive scotch. (If you’re looking for guidance on how to make clear ice, Camper English’s blog, Alcademics, is the place to go.)
Also, use good ingredients. Ginger beer with real ginger, Mexican Coke, and Fever-Tree tonic will all make your highball a little bit better, as will booze that you can sip without wincing. (I’m not saying you spend a ton of money on a liquor that’s destined for a highball, but avoid the stuff in the plastic bottles.)
Finally, you probably should measure at least once to get an idea of what a pour should look like. A ratio of 60mL booze and 90mL not-booze is pretty classic. Pour the booze, then the not-booze, over cracked ice, and give it a gentle stir with your straw. Finish with a strip of lemon or lime zest if you feel like it, and enjoy.